The Japanese team definitely started out strong, claiming both top two positions in the men’s finals through Ryo Aono and Shuhei Sato. Chinese up and comer Yiwei Zhang closed out the podium in third place.
Kelly Clark continued her stellar start to the season (she already placed first at the Burton High Fives last week) with another top of the podium finish in the women’s finals, with France’s Sophie Rodriguez and Queralt Castellet of Spain joining her in the top three.
“I had a little bit of trouble with my first run, but I just basically played it safe and did a basic second run. I landed on my feet and ended up coming away with the win,” Clark says.
Clark and Aono now must spend the season defending their yellow bibs as tour leaders, ahead of a qualification period which runs until January 2014.
“I’ve had a lot of fun progressing my riding over the past few years and I’m excited to push it even more … I feel strong, I feel confident, I feel like I’m riding better than ever, and I’m really looking forward to this season,” says Clark.
“I’m feeling good. My mind’s in the right spot, I’m focused, and I’m pretty motivated. It just is what it is. I’m ready,” adds Lago.
But there’s still a long way to go to Sochi, and experienced riders like Hannah Teter know that it pays to play it one season at a time.
“You don’t even think about [the Olympics] yet,” says Teter. “It’s so far away so it’s in the back of my mind for sure. Right now it’s about learning new tricks, and trying to get ready for this season in preparation for next season.”