For superpipe skier and UC Davis student Brita Sigourney, competing in her first Winter X Games was supposed to be all about having fun.
But the junior graphic design major walked away from the Aspen, Colo. games last Thursday with more than just a fun time – she won a silver medal, too.
After falling in her first run in the final round and scoring just 6.33, Sigourney came back to score 86.00 in her second run and 70.66 in her third. Canadian Sarah Burke took the gold with a high score of 91.33.
“I came out here with the mentality of having a lot of fun, as much fun as possible and not putting so much pressure on myself or expectations. And I think that’s exactly what I did,” Sigourney said.
The Carmel, Calif. native first began skiing at age two on weekend ski trips with her family. At the end of each five-hour drive awaited friends and, by the time she was 13, competitions in extreme skiing.
“My coach would organize trips so I started going to competitions and once you get good results you get invited to more competitions. It just carried on from there,” Sigourney said. “It’s just awesome to compete and get good results. It’s such a good feeling.”
After competing in moguls skiing, Sigourney switched to the superpipe, a 567-foot-long, 75-foot-wide snow-covered half pipe in which competitors perform aerial flips and spins.
Learning new tricks is often a matter of trial and error, said Sigourney, who trains at Squaw Valley outside of Lake Tahoe. She also coaches the Squaw Valley Freestyle Team.
“There’s not really any easy way to [learn tricks]. You have to go out there and if you want to learn a new trick you have to just do it. My coach will tell me what I did wrong and correct it from there,” Sigourney said. “I’m just trying to be really solid and more consistent.”
Athletes are invited to compete in the X Games based on their performance in past competitions. Judges look at scores and overall success in world and national championships. Twelve women and 16 men were invited to ski the superpipe at the Games.
Sigourney placed second in the U.S. Freestyle Championships and won the URTUR Halfpipe. She was the FIS Junior World Champion and the fourth-place finisher at the U.S. Grand Prix.
After getting the news in November that she would be going to the 15th annual X Games, Sigourney began working with a coach for the first time in two years. She also met with sports psychologists for help relaxing on the big day.
“I get really nervous the day of [an event], so I worked on calming down before my set,” said Sigourney.
Sigourney arrived in Aspen last week to prepare for Wednesday’s elimination round and enjoyed the perks of being an athlete. Cheered on by friends and family, Sigourney scored 76.33 for a fifth-place finish in the round, earning a spot in the finals along with five other high-scorers.
Competitors’ final score was taken from the best of three runs in Thursday’s final round. ESPN analyst Mike Douglas described Sigourney’s second run of the final round as “unexpected.”
“You know, what I liked about this run is amplitude. Look at how high she is on this 900. She didn’t just ballerina spin it, she stomped it,” Douglas said during the television broadcast.
Junior communication major Laura Child first met Sigourney while playing water polo and was her roommate during their freshman year at UC Davis. She flew to Aspen to watch Sigourney compete and said watching her friend on the pipe was “the craziest thing ever.”
“I was so nervous. She went so big on the first jump and then ate it, [so] I was so nervous for her next two rounds but she did so well in the second one,” Child said. “She’s super motivated and really wants to do well. She tries really hard whenever she’s out there.”
Cody Sairin, head free ride coach with the Squaw Valley Freestyle Team, claimed that Sigourney’s second, medal-winning run was the best run she had ever done.
“It was the smoothest and had the most style, and was the biggest she’s ever done,” Sairin said.
Winning the silver medal and hearing her family cheering behind her was an amazing feeling, Sigourney said.
“When you get a podium at the X Games to recognize you, your career definitely goes up from there,” she said.
Sigourney, who is currently on hiatus from UC Davis, plans to use her prize money to compete in Europe this spring, but hopes to return to school next quarter and complete her degree. Designing products for a ski company and going to the 2014 Winter Olympics are also future possibilities.
Sairin said he wouldn’t be surprised to see her gain more publicity, win more competitions, and even get invited to the X-Games next year. After watching her coach the young skiers of the Squaw Valley Freestyle Team, he knows she has the perseverance and dedication to keep competing for years to come.
“She’s good with the younger girls and getting them interested, and she’s a great halfpipe coach, obviously,” Sairin said. “Even on bad days she’s still out there – she puts more time in than other girls.”
Sigourney described the feeling of being on the pipe as a mix of adrenaline, nerves and excitement.
“Sometimes my legs will get really shaky. Sometimes I’m just so stoked to be there. It really depends on the day and how I’m performing,” Sigourney said. “I was amazed at how nice the pipe was and I had so much fun, every lap I was in I wanted it to be forever.”
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.