Cassie Sharpe made it look easy, but says it wasn’t.
The 26-year-old freestyle skier from Comox, B.C., won World Cup halfpipe gold in wind and snow Saturday night in Calgary.
Sharpe, the reigning Olympic women champion, put down her highest-scoring run on her first of three passes.
Her 91.5 points would not be beat under the lights at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.
A light and steady snowfall and a breeze curling that snow off the edge of the two-storey pipe made for challenging conditions. With windchill, the temperature felt like minus-25.
Sharpe, who was born in Calgary and spent her early childhood in nearby Airdrie, went for the big score on her first pass with her trademark cork 1080 for her final trick.
“I was just really happy to land that first run,” Sharpe said.
“I was super-nervous coming into it because I was a little bit complacent. I guess because it’s my home mountain and I felt ‘well, it’s just like training pretty much.’
“But landing the first run when it was still running pretty quickly, it was probably my best opportunity to win.”
Canadian teammate Rachael Karker of Erin, Ont., took silver with an 86 and also wrested the season’s overall World Cup lead away from third-place finisher Kexin Zhang.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist David Wise of the U.S. claimed men’s gold with a first-run score of 90.
New Zealand’s Nico Porteous posted an 87.75 for silver, while Calgary’s Noah Bowman earned bronze with an 85.50.
Sharpe was relaxed and animated between each run. She hugged and high-fived a gang friends and family that included boyfriend Justin Dorey, a former freestyler who won men’s World Cup gold in Calgary in 2014.
She earned a world championship silver medal last week in Utah, and captured X Games gold in Aspen, Colo., in January.
In 2018, she claimed both Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the overall World Cup crown.
“A ton of training goes into that,” Sharpe said. “Being consistent is one of the strongest things for this sport I think.
“A ton of training, really good coaches, and having people that lift you up and support you.”
Sharpe admitted feeling a post-Olympic lull coming into her 2018-19 campaign. Skiing for the joy of it keeps her motivated now.
“I’m just trying to figure out what my next thing is,” she said. “I just keep it chill and have fun.”
The Canadian freestyle team held a pre-world championship training camp in the Calgary pipe, which was an advantage when it returned for the World Cup.
“We showed up and we didn’t have to get used to the halfpipe again,” Karker said.
The 21-year-old is having a breakout season. She was the women’s winner in December’s Dew Tour, finished third at the X Games behind Sharpe and placed fourth at the world championship.
With one World Cup remaining in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., next month, Karker could take this year’s crystal globe as season champion.
“I didn’t expect it to come together so soon,” she said. “I haven’t placed under fourth this season, which is insane because last year I made one final.”
Karker is a former trampolinist who trained under Dave Ross at Skyriders, the home gym of Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan, in Richmond Hill, Ont.
“That definitely helped my air awareness in skiing,” Karker said.
After a slow start to his season due to injury, the 26-year-old Bowman carried the momentum of winning bronze at the world championship into Calgary.
“World champs was huge for me,” he said. “Some of the best skiing I’ve ever done and that got me feeling back in my element.”
Calgary’s Brendan McKay and Sascha Pedenko, and Simon d’Artois of Whistler, B.C. finished fifth to seventh respectively in the men’s final.
Porteous took the men’s overall World Cup lead from d’Artois.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press