Heading into the biggest event of her young slopestyle career, 14-year-old Maggie Voisin kept her expectations low. She figured she’d be happy with anything above last place. After all, she was an eighth-grader squaring off against some of the most prominent names in the sport, including the defending X Games champion and top-ranked professional freeskier in the world.
“I told myself, ‘Just have fun – you’re doing this because you love it,’” she said, recalling her mindset heading into last week’s Association of Freesking Professionals (AFP) world championships in Whistler, British Columbia.
Then Voisin went out and had one of those transcendent performances athletes dream about, when all of their hard work comes together at the right moment in the right place. She won. Not for her age group or a specific category – she won the whole slopestyle tournament.
“I was really shocked,” Voisin, who lives in Whitefish, said of her victory. “I never saw it coming.”
Finishing second was Norway’s Tiril Sjastad Christiansen, the slopestyle gold medalist at the 2013 Winter X Games and the top overall skier in the AFP world rankings. In a story on ESPN’s X Games website, Christiansen was quoted as saying, “I’m really glad Maggie won; she’s so good.”
Freeskier Magazine posted a story on its site that concluded: “One thing is for sure: It’s not everyday you see a 14-year-old take down an X Games champ – be sure to keep an eye for Maggie in the seasons to come.”
And what has Voisin, whose dream is to participate in the X Games and Olympics, concluded? What does she think the victory means for her career?
“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s a whole new chapter for me and it brings up new opportunities, bigger events. It’s going be exciting to see what’s next.”
To secure the world championship victory, an AFP World Tour recap noted that Voisin completed “tricks on every rail and solid grabs on every jump” during a “super smooth run that impressed the judges.” The ESPN article said she “showed maturity and consistency despite the challenging conditions and her young age.”
According to ESPN’s rundown of her performance, Voisin “threw a back 270 onto the first rail, a switch safety grab out of the second, a left switch 900 on the first jump, a back 270 mute on the cannon, then a left 720 and a right 540 on the last two jumps. She was the only woman to throw a 900.”
Slopestyle skiing takes place in a terrain park, where skiers perform tricks on a number of different features, such as rails. Judges consider the execution and difficulty of the tricks, as well as the amount of air a skier gets off jumps.
Voisin had only recently learned to complete a 900 – two-and-a-half midair rotations – before sticking one at the world championships. She first started practicing the move in Park City, Utah, where she had been training with Axis Freesking since early January leading up to the AFP world championships on April 12-15.
The championships were the last chance of the season to move up in the AFP rankings. Voisin entered as the No. 15 female slopestyle skier in the world and finishes the year ranked No. 10. Her high ranking was buoyed by earlier top-five finishes, including victories at the USSA Junior Nationals, the North Face Park and Pipe Open Series and the USASA Nationals.
But Voisin said none of those other tournaments compared to the Whistler event in terms of the high level of competition and prestige.
“This is definitely the biggest one,” she said.
Voisin, who has only been freestyle skiing for four years, will now spend some time being a 14-year-old girl: going to school, hanging out with friends and family. But she won’t stay off the ski hill too long. She never can. The mountain always draws her back, beckoning her to practice that next move, to make that next improvement – to continue the path that has already taken her so far in a few years.
“It was a great ending to the season and it’s going to make a great start to the next season,” Voisin said. “I can’t wait. I really love the sport. I’m excited to see where I can go.”
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