She completed the American sweep of gold in the Olympic debut of the event
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — American Maddie Bowman has won the first gold medal in women's freeski halfpipe.
She completed the American sweep of gold in the Olympic debut of the event, joining David Wise, who won the men's event on Tuesday.
The U.S. women's team advanced all four of its skiers to the final, but only Bowman made the podium as she posted the two best scores of the night. She was nearly flawless in her winning run, scoring an 89.00, to improve on her score of 85.80 on her opening run.
France's Marie Martinod took silver, and Japan's Ayana Onozuka took bronze.
Americans Angeli Vanlaanen and Brita Sigourney each fell on their first run in finals, with Vanlaanen suffering a bloody nose after hitting her face on the snow. Annalisa Drew then fell on her second run.
They weren't alone in their struggles in finals, as six of the 11 skiers fell at least once.
But not the medalists. Each of the women on the podium skied cleanly all night. Martinod had the best score in qualifying, while Bowman was third and Onozuka fourth heading into the final.
The first Olympic freeski halfpipe medals were awarded on a night when many of the skiers wanted to honor the late Sarah Burke, the pioneering Canadian skier whose lobbying helped get the sport into the Games. Burke's husband, Rory Bushfield, and parents Gord Burke and Jan Phelan, were at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to watch the event Burke loved so much.
Burke died on Jan. 19, 2012, nine days after a training accident in Park City, Utah. Performing a routine trick, Burke fell and the whiplash severed the vertebral artery to her brain. She went into cardiac arrest in the halfpipe. Despite surgery to repair the artery, Burke remained in a coma until her death.
She has remained an inspiration to this generation of freestyle skiers, and many wanted to officially honor her here. The IOC barred skiers from wearing any sort of tributes on their uniforms, so they had to find another way.
Canadian Rosalind Groenewoud bowed her head and pointed to her helmet after her runs, indicating the spot on her helmet where her "Sarah" tribute sticker would normally be.
Groenewoud's family and friends also held a banner in which they wrote "Celebrate Sarah."
Martinod pointed to the sky and made a heart symbol with her hands after her second run.