Two medals for Norway in Winter X Games

Silje Norendal and Ståle Sandbech each earn a medal for Norway in the snow-boarding slopestyle competition in Aspen

Photo: Silje Norendal / Facebook Norendal tops the podium.

Photo: Silje Norendal / Facebook
Norendal tops the podium.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

The Winter X Games XIX presented the best of the world’s extreme winter sports competitors in Aspen, Colorado. From January 21 to 25, athletes from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Australia competed in skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

While the hosting Americans swept the competition, claiming 31 medals (11 gold, 11 silver, and nine bronze), two young Norwegians thrived in the snowboarding slopestyle events.

The 21-year-old Norwegian Silje Norendal became a two-time X Games gold medalist on Jan. 25 as she came in first in the Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle competition for the second year in a row.

Before Norendal’s final run, American Jamie Anderson led with 91.33 points. But Norendal’s extraordinary final run gave her the gold with 93.66 points. The national snowboarding coach Thomas Harstad was impressed with Norendal’s flawless run, telling NRK that this was her best performance yet.

“It is completely fantastic. There were lots of nerves. It was great to finish the first run, but I was just as nervous for the second, and similarly for the third,” comments Norendal of her performance to NRK. This victory was extra significant for Norendal, signifying her comeback from a frustrating season.

“It is huge. I had thought a bit that maybe I was a one-hit wonder in Aspen. I began to doubt my own snowboarding skills a little, but I have been much better this year than last year, so I had to just focus on being better than before,” says Norendal.

With this victory, Norendal looks forward to regained confidence in her snowboarding career.

Norway also prospered in the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle, with 21-year-old Ståle Sandbech earning the silver medal.

Photo: Ståle Sandbech / Facebook Sandbeck prepares for qualifiers at the Winter X Games.

Photo: Ståle Sandbech / Facebook
Sandbeck prepares for qualifiers at the Winter X Games.

Sandbech comments on his performances, stating: “The only time I have landed this run before was in the Olympics and here in the first round. It was a relief. The second round I tried something I had never done before. In the last round the rotation on the second jump was a little too short, so it was second place.”

Sandbech had initially led the competition after the first round but eventually trailed behind Canadian Mark McMorris. In the final round, McMorris secured the gold medal with a score of 96.00. Sandbech’s outstanding run earned him a score of 95.00, a mere point behind McMorris.

“I am of course a little disappointed, but we both performed very well and it could have gone both ways. Second place is awesome, and Mark [McMorris] is one of my best friends,” commented Sandbeck to TV 2 on his silver medal.

But many think the Norwegian deserved to win the gold, arguing that his final run was just as good as McMorris’s.

“If I’m going to be completely honest, I think that ESPN chose to judge McMorris a bit up for ratings in the U.S. Don’t misunderstand me; he rode extremely well, but Ståle rode better,” says TV 2 snowboard expert Jonas Greve.

Sandbech, however, has chosen to take a neutral position on the issue. When asked if he was upset by the judging, he said, “Eh, I haven’t seen the runs, and I don’t know that I want to either. There are many who have said that I should. It is difficult to say; we both performed very well. Now I will compete at the European Open, and that is my focus now.”

Now that the X Games are over, both Silje Norendal and Ståle Sandbech are looking ahead to their next competitions.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.