Mike Riddle could hardly contain himself, bouncing around, skis in hand, as he waited for his score at the freestyle world championships on Saturday.
When the result from his second run down the halfpipe was announced — an 89.60 that put him in a good position for a podium finish — the reigning Olympic silver medallist threw both arms up in the air and fist-pumped in celebration.
Riddle, from Sherwood Park, Alta., held on to claim the silver medal in Sierra Nevada, Spain in the final event of the freestyle season, capping an otherwise frustrating year with a solid result.
“It’s been a tough season for me so I was so unbelievably excited just to be back competing,” Riddle said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. “And then getting on the podium was a whole other level of thrill.
“I’m still a little in shock from it, but I’m very, very happy.”
Riddle, back on the halfpipe for the first time since reaggravating a broken shoulder blade four weeks earlier, started Saturday’s final with a mediocre first run that had him in sixth place with 72.8 points.
He rebounded in his second run — following five consecutive skiers who had crashed out on the hard, icy pipe — and landed a series of impressive tricks highlighted by a double-cork 1200 and a switch-700. Riddle scored slightly less on his third and final run (89.40), making his second score stick for the silver medal.
American Aaron Blunck took gold with 91.80 and France’s Kevin Rolland claimed bronze with 88.40.
Noah Bowman (85.80) and Brendan MacKay (82.80), both from Calgary, finished sixth and seventh, respectively, and Simon d’Artois (39.40) of Whistler, B.C., was ninth.
Riddle first broke his shoulder blade in January, causing him to miss the X Games in Aspen and a good chunk of the season. After rehabbing for a few weeks in Calgary, Riddle broke the bone again in February in Pyeongchang, still managing to finish in sixth place at an Olympic test event.
“I’m definitely not 100 per cent yet, I’m probably only 70 or 80 per cent at most. So I’m just not allowed to fall on my shoulder,” Riddle said with a laugh. “This is the last event (of the season) so I rushed back for it because it was my last chance.”
With the 2018 Olympics less than a year away, making the Canadian team for Pyeongchang and defending, or improving, on his halfpipe silver from the Sochi Games helped serve as Riddle’s motivation this season.
Results at the world championships are used in qualifying for the Canadian team.
“The Olympic team is a competitive team to make,” Riddle said. “There’s definitely a lot of motivation to solidify a spot for next year.”
The 30-year-old Riddle finished fourth at the last world championships in Norway in 2013 after winning gold in the 2011 version at Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Riddle and the rest of Canada’s freestyle ski team will now travel to Calgary for a training camp where he’ll have his shoulder re-examined and get back on a rehab schedule.
If everything checks out, Riddle will be back on the pipe as soon as possible.
“It’s definitely not worth risking anything at this point in the season, but hopefully I’ll be good enough to do some stuff over there,” he said. “Springtime is the best time for us to learn new tricks because the pipe gets really slushy and soft and it’s a lot lower risk.
“Mostly what I need is time, though. You can’t really stabilize a scapula so I haven’t had time to heal. I’ve just been battling with this throughout the season and what I really need now is a break.”
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Riddle scored 89.60 on his final run rather than his second.
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