Jindabyne's Russell Henshaw won his second straight Toyota One Hit Wonder big air competition at Thredbo last week when he outclassed an international field to stand atop of the podium.
After some very impressive tricks and big air by all the competitors, at the end of the day it was Henshaw who outpointed the opposition with a perfectly executed double cork 1260 tail grab to defend his title.
Australia's leading big air skier and a big medal prospect at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Henshaw edged past up and coming Canadian skier Noah Morrison by the close margin of 2 points in the first leg and only gold ranked AFP (Association of Freeskiing Professionals) big air event in the Southern Hemisphere. Six months out from the Olympics this win will only boost Henshaw's confidence and further position himself as a definite Winter Olympics medal contender heading into the northern winter season.
With strong gusts of wind and flurries of snow causing a few delays to competition intermittently throughout the day, under these testing conditions, including 80km/h gusts, competitors still threw down some solid jumps for the 5th annual Toyota One Hit Wonder big air. The event hosts the biggest jump in the Southern Hemisphere, and is the first AFP World Tour Big Air event for the 2013/2014 season.
With a selection of three jumps to choose from it soon became evident the biggest jump was not the choice for the day's conditions with most skiers opting for the middle jump which had more kick to it.
"I didn't hit the big one, but by watching what the other guys were doing and then hitting the middle one, it looked like I had more hang time.
"I think it was a smart choice to hit the smaller one and take it a bit mellow as it is an important season coming up," commented Henshaw after the event.
Less than 24 hours after a horrific crash during practice, Sam Ruttiman from Canada came back with something to prove. Ruttiman over-cleared the jump by more than 80ft, which theoretically should have resulted in a season ending injury.
Yet he redeemed himself, pushing through a broken ankle to land himself 4th place.
Other local Jindabyne skiers certainly held their own in this strong competition with Jordan Houghton finishing in a strong 5th placing and Thomas Waddell, Boen Ferguson and Charlie Timmins all performing well.
Ramone Cooper, National Pathway Co-Ordinator for Ski and Snowboard Australia and one of the three judges was impressed with the standard of the event. Cooper a former Olympic skier himself from Jindabyne stated: "It was great having a gold level event to attract some international riders out here, it really raises the level of competition so we had riders from all over the world and our Australian riders were able to mix it with them which was really great."
Thomas Waddell made a comeback from a minor knee injury and looked very comfortable on the huge 100ft jump. Having competed last year, 17-year-old Waddell was in the mix with his older peers and with a few more years under his belt will soon be knocking on the door to the podium in these bigger events.
"It was really good and it was a bit windy in the first few days to hit the big side but the middle side looked like and felt like you got just as much air time as the bigger jump and it was such a fun event, really good jumps," commented Waddell after his last jumping session.
The Toyota One Hit Wonder Big Air competition was the first event to kick off the first-ever Efterski Festival in Thredbo, which is presented by Rekorderlig Cider and One Hit Wonder. The jump site has been a regular fixture in Thredbo since 2009, looming above the Cruiser quad chairlift, as professional athletes try to impress the judges with acrobatics and tricks through 100 odd feet of airtime, all for the richest cash prize in Australian freeskiing and the chance to add points to their overall AFP tour ranking.