Blunck steps on top of Grand Prix podium

“Some heavy hitters were right there”

It’s only getting better for halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck, and he appears to be peaking when it matters most.
Blunck posted the top score of his career two weeks ago to place second at the opening stop of the Dew Tour series. The event was also the first of five qualifying events for the U.S. Ski Team headed to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Following the competition Blunck said, “Knowing I have a second place is perfect.”
Well, it just got more perfect for Blunck, as he won the Copper Grand Prix on Friday, December 20, the second qualifier event of the season. He is currently the top-scoring halfpipe skier gunning for one of three spots on the U.S. Ski Team.
Blunck’s lead-up to the event was as good a week as he could ask for. Following a rest day on Monday, Blunck returned to training on Tuesday and was in the groove with the opening qualifier at Copper just 48 hours away.
“I pretty much had the best training I’ve ever had,” says Blunck.
Due to the shorter halfpipe venue at Copper, Blunck was forced to remove his final “hit” from his repertoire but went with his Dew Tour run through his two qualifier runs, laying down back-to-back quality runs on Thursday.
“My first run was almost flawless and scored an 86.4,” says Blunck. “To score that high right off the bat was great.”
 Blunck stepped it up in his second qualifier run to score an 87 to secure his spot in the finals on Friday with some tricks still left in his bag.
Weather on the finals day was less than cooperative as a winter storm rolled in, making for whiteout conditions throughout the day.
As a result, Blunck opted to leave his tricks in the bag and go with what he knew.
“We knew the pipe was going to be a little slower so I decided to hold off on a couple of moves I had planned,” says Blunck.
Blunck’s practice runs on the finals day were, admittedly, less than stellar and while he looked to block that out of his mind, the energy from his practices followed him into the first finals run.
Running fifth out of 12 finalists, Blunck dropped into his first finals run and things were moving along just fine until his second to last hit, when he popped off the halfpipe wall a little too far and landed flat.
“I was pretty bummed about that,” says Blunck.
He spent some time alone and pulled his head back together, hitting his focus as he slid up to his second finals run.
“I kind of took some time, did my own thing and went into the second run confidant,” explains Blunck. “And once I was in the start, everything came back together.”
Blunck had his day in the halfpipe and after his final trick he slid into the finish area knowing he had laid down as good a run as he could have. And when a score of 92 came up on the board, he was blown away.
“I got my score and I was like…what?” says Blunck.
The 92 put him in first place with four skiers left to go. But not just any four skiers—rather, some of the top four skiers in halfpipe skiing were awaiting their second run.
“Some heavy hitters were right there,” says Blunck. “It was pretty nerve-racking. I knew all four of those guys have what it takes to beat me.”
After the next three skiers went, Blunck was still in first, with just Gus Kenworthy left to try to knock Blunck out of first. Kenworthy put down a run that had Blunck sitting in limbo but when Kenworthy’s score hit the screen, Blunck realized that he had won.
“When I saw his score I was like, whoa are you kidding me?” says Blunck.
As a result, Blunck is now sitting in first place overall in the Olympic qualifying standings with three events to go and has two of the required three podium finishes taken care of. Nevertheless, he maintains the quest for Sochi is far from determined and continues to take things one day at a time.
“There are 10 or 15 Americans that can win any event on any day,” says Blunck. “I’m still just going out and skiing, not worrying about the Olympics and just focusing on landing my run.”
Blunck returns to Crested Butte for Christmas and some freeskiing with friends and family before returning to training just before the new year. He returns to competition January 6-12 for a Grand Prix in Breckenridge, the third Olympic qualifying event of the season.

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