Brandon Semenuk must wonder what it’s going to take for him to win in his home town of Whistler.
In a surprise Kokanee Crankworx 2009 Slopestyle outcome Saturday, Greg Watts, a tricks specialist from the Santa Cruz-Aptos cabal in California, upset Semenuk, who was fresh off his second straight Crankworx Colorado victory and obviously hoping to kill before his B.C. homeys. Watts, who was runnerup to Semenuk at Colorado, flashed some monster moves, including a double flip whip performed by twirling the bike above you while upside down and backwards to the terrain below.
Taking nothing away from Watts, who clearly rode out of his mind, Semenuk wuz robbed. You can argue whether Semenuk’s tail whips and flips were better than Watts’ — Semenuk also did an upside-downer — or whether his run was as daring and innovative as Watts. But assuming these are arguable points, Semenuk ruled on style points.
The man — well, kid, really, at 18 — gets air like no one else. He soars so high that you almost feel the G-out in your gut. He’s like an angel floating in the clouds, only on wheels instead of wings.
By contrast (again, nothing diminished), Watts’ victorious flip whip seemed a bit rushed and incomplete. Yes he pulled it off. But did he really nail it?
Finally, Semenuk’s high-wire act had more diversity than Greg’s. It was one different move after another — back flip, tail whip, upside down whip, front flip, no-hands, reverse 360 — that left the crowd gasping and roaring at the same time.
Points are all judgment calls by the panel of experts, of course. And they took their time, presumably mulling over some of the above considerations. But in the end, they came down on the wrong side. (Some observers said Watts wuz robbed at Colorado, so this may be poetic justice.)
It might be reasoned that at his tender age, Semenuk has years to get the top Slopestyle win in the world. But slopestyle isn’t golf or tennis or even the NBA. You’re only one cracked disc or broken foot from the shelf, as the quickly forgotten stars of yesteryear (some of whom were drifting around Whistler Village the past week) can readily attest. By your mid-20s, the normal peak years for athletic prowess, you’re pretty much out of this type of competition.
Let’s hope there wasn’t a “prophet without honor” psychology going on in the voting, a subtext that says you can’t favor the hometown hero and anyway, how could someone from down the street really beat all these big names from around the world?
In any case, there’s always (or at least a good chance for) next year for Semenuk. At some point it’s going to be clear he’s the class of the competition, local boy or not.
In another surprise, first-timer Martin Soederstroem of Sweden, who must be the new Tailwhip King of the slopestyle circuit, pulled down the bronze, beating out Paul Basagoitia, the only competitor to ever win Crankworx in his first try (as a qualifier, no less). Bas is having a great year nonetheless, as a video floating around of him doing a rocket-shot flip whip proves.
All in all, another monster Monster Energy Slopestyle is in the books. Each year seems to get better, and although I hear some cavils about too many flips and whips so why bother? Crankworx never fails to amaze, delight and inspire. The magic of Crankworx is that I’ll go ride tomorrow with dreams of doing my first 360, and although at my age it will never happen, that can’t stop me from riding like it might.