Snowboarder Spencer O’Brien, from Courtenay, again displayed the form that many feel can carry her to the podium next February at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The five-time X Games medallist and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympian closed out the 2016-17 season by winning the silver medal at the final World Cup event Saturday in Spindleruv, Czech Republic.
O’Brien, who was born in Alert Bay and learned boarding on Mount Washington, had a top-scoring run of 81.22 points. Gold-medallist Zoi Sadowski Synnott, a 16-year-old Kiwi prodigy, won her first World Cup event with a score of 87.32. Silvia Mittermueller of Germany collected the bronze medal with 73.40 points.
O’Brien, 28, has had to overcome pain and swelling caused by early-onset rheumatoid arthritis.
The 2013 world slopestyle champion, who had a scary moment when she collided with a course worker during a practice run in January at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, was fifth this month in the 2017 FIS world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
O’Brien is an Olympic podium prospect next year in Pyeongchang not only in slopestyle, but also the newly added big-air event.
She leads an intriguing group of younger snowboarders out of Mount Washington who are also candidates next year for the Winter Olympics. Cassie Sharpe of Comox won a World Cup halfpipe in Tignes, France, this season and became the first woman to land a switchcork 720 in a contest run. Teale Harle of Campbell River won his first career World Cup victory this month in Silvaplana, Switzerland. Another to watch is Darcy Sharpe, 20, of Comox, younger brother of Cassie Sharpe, and an emerging world factor in big air.