Like the rest of her Chinese snow sports compatriots, Xuetong Cai was unable to compete in the 2020/21 season due to Covid-19 safety measures mandated by the Chinese government. Still, despite the fact it’s been nearly two years since her last World Cup start, the 28-year-old was able to pick up right where she left off at her last event in Calgary back in February of 2020, stomping an outstanding final run for the 13th World Cup victory of her career.
Starting with a picture-perfect backside air, Xuetong Cai then went with a frontside 900 Weddle grab, into a backside 540 Weddle, a stylish air-to-fakie melon, and finally capping things off with a cab 900 melon to give her a score of 80.50 for the win.
“I’m really happy,” Xuetong Cai smiled from the finish area, “I was excited about the competition because last year we were just training the whole time. So I’m just excited to come back and compete.
“I’m just taking it one step at a time heading towards Beijing (2022 Olympic Winter Games). I hope I can do well in every competition and head into the Olympics feeling confident.”
With the victory, Xuetong Cai moves into a tie on the all-time FIS Snowboard halfpipe World Cup wins list - just two wins back of the 15 currently held by Tricia Byrnes of the USA - while extending her lead on the all-time podiums rankings with her 28th World Cup top-3 in 38 events entered.
Second place on the day went to Japan’s Sena Tomita, who held the lead through much of the afternoon after landing a 76.00 point scoring first run. Smooth and stylish throughout, Tomita’s run started with a frontside 540 melon, into a backside 540 Weddle, then a frontside 720 indy, a cab 720 Weddle, and finally a frontside 900 melon to nab the sixth podium of her World Cup career.
Top qualifier Queralt Castellet of Spain was able to utilize the very last run of the women’s competition to land the final spot on the podium, as the 32-year-old earned the 16th top-3 result of her career with a run that began with a switch backside 540 melon, then a cab 720 melon, a frontside 540 tail grab, a backside 540 Weddle, and finally a frontside 720 to cap things off with a score of 70.50.
With her final run, Castellet bumped Elizabeth Hosking into fourth place, denying the 20-year-old Canadian her first World Cup podium.