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Hanna Faulhaber, Troy Podmilsak win titles as freestyle ski, snowboard worlds end

Eighteen-year-old Hanna Faulhaber nails her final run in Bakuriani to win the freeski halfpipe world title.

Hanna Faulhaber became the first American woman to win a freeski world title, taking the halfpipe on the final day of the world championships in Bakuriani, Georgia, on Saturday.

Later, fellow 18-year-old Troy Podmilsak became the first American man or woman to win a world title in ski big air, which made its Olympic debut last year.

Faulhaber, who was sixth in halfpipe at the Olympics, earned her first top-level victory with a 95.75-point third and final run to overtake X Games champion Zoe Atkin of Great Britain. She landed a 900 and back-to-back 720s. Canadian Rachael Karker took bronze.

“It’s unbelievable,” Faulhaber said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “I’m really at a loss of words right now. I shed a couple tears, and wow. That is really the only word I can use to describe it right now -- wow.”

China’s Eileen Gu, the Olympic and world champion the previous two years, missed worlds after suffering a season-ending MCL strain, ACL strain and bone bruise in a heavy training crash at X Games practice in January.

Faulhaber has been on skis since age 2 1/2, starting in moguls, then inspired to take up halfpipe by watching the X Games near her Colorado hometown.

Before Faulhaber, all nine U.S. women to win an individual freestyle skiing world title did it in aerials or moguls, the last being aerialist Ashley Caldwell in 2017. In the freeskiing events of halfpipe, slopestyle and big air, American woman racked up eight silver or bronze medals dating to 2005 before Faulhaber’s breakthrough.

Podmilsak scored 91.25 and 96.50 on his first two runs in the three-run big air final, enough for gold over Austrian Lukas Muellauer. Olympic champion Birk Ruud of Norway earned bronze. He landed a triple cork 2160, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

“Actually nothing was going through my head; I kind of went into this zone where I didn’t actually exist,” said Podmilsak, who made his major championships debut at last month’s X Games, finishing sixth. “I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t tired. I was just nothingness.”

Frenchwoman Tess Ledeux earned her second world title in ski big air in the absence of Olympic champion Gu.

In men’s ski halfpipe, American Alex Ferreira added his first world championships medal (bronze) to his Olympic silver and bronze and two X Games titles.

Canadian Brendan Mackay won with a 97.25-point third and final run that included a 1620, followed by Finland’s Jon Sallinen (95.75) and Ferreira (93.00). American David Wise, a two-time Olympic champ, was ninth.

Austrian Anna Gasser earned her second world title in snowboard big air to go along with her two Olympic gold medals and 2018 X Games crown. In January, Gasser, 31, withdrew moments before the X Games big air after suffering what she called a mild concussion in slopestyle the day before.

Japan’s Taiga Hasegawa, 17, won the men’s snowboard big air for his first global championships podium. Olympic champion Su Yiming of China didn’t enter worlds.

The ski and snowboard big air finals were moved up from Sunday to Saturday due to weather forecasts.

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