Wānaka skier Hank Bilous has finished on the podium at the first stop of the 2020 Freeride World Tour in Japan. A blistering high-speed run incorporating some huge air time saw Hank score 88.67 points to finish second behind two-time world champion Drew Tabke (USA) on 89.67. Reine Barkered (SWE), also a former world champion, finished third.
Dropping in for his run with a front flip off the top ridge, Bilous booted across the mountainside and had spectators holding their breath as he took a huge transfer air, put it to his feet and backed up with a stomped 360.
“I was probably more stoked to make it over that transfer gap than I was to see my score!” said Bilous. “It’s always hard to know definitively if those kind of gaps will actually line up from a visual inspection but it looked like it would work to me and I’m glad it did.”
In Freeride World Tour events riders are not able to ski through the course before the competition and can only plan their line by making a visual inspection from the bottom or using images of the venue.
Sidelined by illness, Bilous took a year off from competition in 2019 and said being able to compete again this year was the most important thing.
“I felt an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude to be standing in the start gate at the end of the road, filled with highs and lows, that brought me there. Taking a moment to realise where I was and what I was doing made me feel really content and anything that happened from there was a bonus,” he said.
The next stop on the Freeride World Tour will take place in Kicking Horse, Canada between February 6-12.