Acrobats took over Holmenkollen

UPDATED: The best snowboarders in the world, along with thousands of children, took over winter sports areas around Holmenkollen during the weekend, just days after the world’s best freestyle skiers moved on to Voss. The annual “Arctic Challenge” saw snowboarders flying off what some call the world’s “rawest” half-pipe.

The world's top snowboarders were back in action over the weekend at Wyllerløyper in Oslo, like they were last year as well. PHOTO: Arctic Challenge/Elenora Raggi

The world’s top snowboarders were back in action over the weekend at Wyllerløyper in Oslo, like they were last year as well. PHOTO: Arctic Challenge/Elenora Raggi

The event marked the half-pipe final on the World Snowboard Tour, and it took place on Saturday at Wyllerløypa, behind Holmenkollen and adjacent to Oslo Vinterpark. Norway has boasted among the world’s top snowboarders over the years, but Jurij Podlatsjikov of Switzerland ended up winning for the second year in a row.

Saturday “was just fantastic,” the snowboarder known as “Ipod” told newspaper Aftenposten. “This is a place where you can go really high. Even though some fresh snow meant that we lost some speed at the start, we got more speed and height at the end.”

The world championships in freestyle skiing kicked off at the same site earlier in the week, before moving on to Voss in the mountains between Oslo and Bergen. The world championships began with the  half-pipe finals on Monday and continued with mogul skiing and jumping at Voss. Slopestyle and ski-cross would dominate during the weekend, with Norwegian Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen, age 17 from Geilo, among the favourites. She didn’t do nearly as well as expected, though, and fell out of medal contention even though she’d won the X-Games in extreme sports. Instead, Keya Turski of Canada tok first place, followed by Dara Howell, also of Canada and Grete Eliassen of the US. In the men’s competition, first place went to Thomas Wallisch of the US, followed by James Woods of Great Britain and Nicholas Goepper of the US.

The snowboarders took over Oslo’s half-pipe when the freestylers left, and young teenage Ayumu Hirano of Japan was expected to be among the stars of the show. He’s just 14 years old but already tops world snowboard rankings and was promising to fly high over Oslo. He ended up in third place.

“He’s like a little superhero from Japan,” Ståle Sandbach, one of the Norwegian hopes in the competition, told newspaper Aftenposten. “It’s incredible what he manages to do.” Sandbach, from Rykkinn west of Oslo and ranked number two on the World Snowboard Tour at present, said he thought Hirano would be a top gold medal candidate.

Hirano himself flew into Oslo on Wednesday and reportedly headed straight for a sushi restaurant. He told Aftenposten he trains every single day after school “to be best” and that he’d come to Oslo to win. “The country is beautiful and the air is so clean here,” he said. Neither Sandbach nor other Norwegian competitors, meanwhile, made it to the finals.

Children invaded Holmenkollen on Sunday
While the snowboarders were gearing up for Saturday’s competition, thousands of children were getting ready for Barnas Holmenkollrenn on Sunday, the annual children’s ski race at Holmenkollen where everyone is a winner. The children aged three to 12 could choose between four tracks, from 250 meters long to 2.5 kilometers, with 7,000 winner packs ready to be handed out. Most all of them were.

It’s billed as the largest children’s ski competition in the world, with associated events going on in Enebakk, Gjøvik, Hakadal, Oppegård, Ringkollen, Røyken and Hemsedal. It started in 1973 and now is part of the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival next week, which culminates with top Nordic competition and ski jumping off Holmenkollen next Sunday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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