Tuesday (Feb. 18) was certainly Mike Riddle’s day at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Russia.
The native of Sherwood Park, Alta., who calls Squamish home during the ski season, nailed his final run in the men’s ski halfpipe competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics to earn the silver medal, Canada’s 17th medal of the Games.
Riddle pulled off back-to-back double cork 1260s to post a score of 90.6 points, putting him in second place with five skiers to go. That result held up as American David Wise, who scored a 92.0 on his first run, captured the gold medal, while Kevin Rolland of France captured the bronze.
“I couldn’t be happier with the result,” Riddle, the 2011 world champion and 2012-’13 overall World Cup winner in halfpipe, told Canada.com. “I’m just totally overwhelmed by the experience.”
Riddle’s thoughts on his triumphant day also were on a former Squamish resident, Sarah Burke. Burke, a freestyle skiing pioneer whose can-do spirit and lobbying helped land men’s and women’s halfpipe and slopestyle in the Olympics, died after crashing while training in Colorado in 2012.
Many among the Canadian contingent — including Quest University students Rosalind Groenewoud and Keltie Hansen, who compete in the women’s halfpipe today (Thursday, Feb. 20) — have dedicated their Sochi Games efforts to Burke and her legacy.
“These are Sarah’s Olympics, for sure,” Riddle told reporters as the snow fell around him. “She was pushing hard for our sport to be here and without her, I don’t think halfpipe or slopestyle for skiing would be where they are today.
“I think she’s sending some of this snow down so we can ski powder tomorrow.”
Riddle said he had never executed back-to-back double-cork 1260s in competition before Tuesday’s final run.
“I decided it was a good time to do it for the first time,” he told the Canadian Press. In a tweet forwarded by the Canadian Olympic Committee, Riddle added that he was “unbelievably happy to put it together when it mattered.”