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Freestyle skier Roz Groenewoud finishes seventh in halfpipe final at Sochi Games

Posted: 02/20/2014 10:29 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 02/20/2014 4:21 PM

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Rosalind Groenewoud's pre-Olympic routine was far from ideal.

The Canadian freestyle skier did well just to get to the Sochi Games considering she's only two months out from double knee surgery. Instead of training and preparing over the last few weeks, Groenewoud was rehabbing and recovering.

It left her behind the rest of the field and it showed Thursday night at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Groenewoud settled for a seventh-place finish in the Olympic debut of the women's ski halfpipe competition.

"This pipe and me didn't get along that well," Groenewoud said. "I took a lot of falls in it throughout training and I think it kind of beat my body down and beat my confidence down a little bit.

"But everyone has to ski the same pipe so I guess that's not really an excuse. It definitely worked for some other girls' skiing styles better and I wish I'd overcome that."

Groenewoud crashed in her first run but turned in a decent effort in the second run to finish with 74.20 points. American Maddie Bowman won gold with a score of 89.00 points on a mild evening under the lights, edging Marie Martinod of France (85.40).

Ayana Onozuka of Japan won bronze with 83.20 points.

Groenewoud, who won a world title in 2011 and gold at the X Games in 2012, was optimistic after taking a silver medal at the X Games last month.

That second-place finish was quite an accomplishment considering her post-surgery challenges. After doctors repaired the lateral meniscus in both of her knees, Groenewoud worked with physiotherapists, trainers and coaches to get back in form.

She started the recovery process with compression icing before moving on to physio, cycling and weightlifting. Eventually she returned to the slopes and felt good about her chances.

"She skied her heart out," said coach Trennon Paynter. "She gave her everything on that last run. She really attacked and she went for it. As you can see and hear, a slight mistake can multiply and really throw you off. It was tough."

In ski halfpipe, athletes try to impress judges with their tricks, spins and flips on the U-shaped snow pipe. Amplitude, technical difficulty, creativity and landings are all factors.

The walls are almost seven metres high at their peak and the pipe is about 19 metres wide.

Paynter said Groenewoud's first final run had the difficulty level to land her on the podium. However, she was unable to land her first big trick and crashed.

The second run went better but she couldn't match the difficulty or smoothness of the top competitors.

"When you land perfect, it makes the next trick so much easier," Paynter said. "When you land off, everything gets three times more difficult for the next trick."

Groenewoud usually does well in training but that wasn't the case Thursday. Her qualifying run went a little better but she never really felt like she found her rhythm.

Her knees were sore afterwards but didn't bother her during the competition. She wanted to deliver a run with some great new tricks and it just didn't materialize.

"I guess I didn't have quite enough time having to take most of the winter off with knee surgery to really get them as down pat as I wanted to," she said. "I thought I was going to be able to pull it out for tonight because I've done that a lot with competitions, but tonight it didn't work out.

"I guess both my body and my confidence got beat down by this pipe."

Groenewoud appeared relaxed and comfortable at the start of both runs. Her disappointment was clear after her second run although she tried to look at the positives.

"I was just glad that I landed a run at the Olympics because I was feeling pretty demoralized from crashing my first run," she said. "It just wasn't happening for me tonight."

Edmonton's Keltie Hansen was 13th in the qualification round and missed the cut for the final by one position.

It was an emotional night for many of the skiers. The event was making its Olympic debut thanks in part to the efforts of the late Canadian skier Sarah Burke, who died in a training accident in 2012.

In a nice touch after the competition had ended, several halfpipe workers made one last trip down the slope in the formation of a heart.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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