By CBC Sports
Cassie Sharpe had envisioned it.
The freestyle skier, from Comox, B.C., finished with a halfpipe score of 95.80 to win gold on a cool, sunny morning at Phoenix Park, a day after finishing first in qualifying.
Her first two runs each would’ve placed her atop the podium on their own. Her third ended up being a victory lap, with gold already in her pocket.
She’d talked about the possibility of that victory lap a day earlier, confident she could repeat her qualifying success.
And she did.
“That was incredible,” said Sharpe. “It doesn’t quite feel real yet.”
France’s Marie Martinod took silver after crashing in her final run, guaranteeing Sharpe the top spot. American Brita Sigourney won bronze.
Sharpe set the tone early in the final, getting a 94.40 in her first run down the halfpipe and following it up with a 95.80 in the second. The best of three runs is a skier’s final score in ski halfpipe. She credits her success to training every day.
“So much to the point that I’m like ‘I don’t want to anymore, I want to have fun.’ But it is fun for me. My job is my favourite thing to do,” said Sharpe.
Calgary’s Rosalind Groenewoud finished 10th overall.
Sharpe made no mistakes in her first Olympics appearance. The first woman to ever land a switch cork 720 in competition last year, she amped up the difficulty for her runs in Pyeongchang.
Sharpe began her first run with a mute grab and a tight inverted 900 tailgrab. Somehow, she maintained enough speed to follow up with a 900 lead tailgrab.
And that wasn’t even the golden run.
In her second venture down the halfpipe, the 25-year-old added a half-rotation at the end for a 1080 tailgrab.
“I’ve been training so hard to get that run consistent and I just wanted to come out here strong with that first run. After I landed that I was like ‘OK, this is it, you can do this, if you land the second run you can bump your score,'” said Sharpe.
Despite scores above 90 for Martinod and Sigourney, they couldn’t come close to matching Sharpe’s high-flying act.
In the crowd, Sharpe’s parents Chantal and Don anxiously watched their daughter make her Olympic debut. But the nerves didn’t need to linger. Sharpe’s first two runs were each enough to win gold, and by the time she took the hill for her third, the gold medal was already sewn up.
“It means so much to have their support, their love,” said Sharpe. “To see them all screaming at me it’s the best feeling in the world having them here.”
It was a different story for defending champion American Maddie Bowman, who wiped out in all three runs of a disappointing final. Bowman, who appeared in tears more from disappointment than pain, finished 11th.
Sharpe is the first Canadian woman to medal in the event after its inclusion in the Olympics for 2014. Canada’s Sarah Burke was a pioneer for the sport who lobbied the International Olympic Committee for the sport’s inclusion ahead of the Sochi Games.
But Burke never got the chance to compete at the Olympics after dying from injuries sustained in a training crash in Utah in 2012.
Sharpe’s coach, Trennon Paynter, also filled that role for Burke. Sharpe said that at the top of the hill before her third run, Paynter hugged her and told her he was going to cry on national television.
“I was like, ‘hold it together Trennon, because you’re gonna make me cry,'” said Sharpe. “But it was something that I think we’ve been working towards for a long time.”
Sharpe added that she owes her halfpipe success to the work Burke did in bringing the sport into the international spotlight.
“I wouldn’t be doing the tricks that I do without her pushing it before I was even into the sport.”
With files from The Canadian Press