Norway's golden skier returns to Aspen
The only time Norway's Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen competed in Aspen was in 2013. While all eyes were on three-time defending champion Kaya Turski, Tiril, then 17, scored gold as an unheralded rookie. In the process, she became the youngest female Ski gold medalist in X Games history. The Norwegian wasn't one and done, either. Six weeks later, she crossed the pond and took silver at XG Tignes. She finished second overall on the year-end AFP slopestyle rankings.
Sjåstad Christiansen was the next big thing in a sport that embraces fresh faces. Everything changed when she suffered a torn left ACL in December 2013. First, she missed XG Aspen 2014, then she pulled out of the Sochi Olympics after an attempt to rehab the knee in time to compete in Russia proved futile. Delaying surgery until after the Olympics meant that her knee still wasn't ready to go by XG Aspen 2015.
Losing most of two seasons is a major blow, but Sjåstad Christiansen tried to make the best of it. After Sochi, she returned to Norway, finished high school and spent as much time as she could with friends and family. She even did a handful of road bike races. "I did three or four competitions," Tiril says. "I'm very competitive, and I had to compete in something. I tried to forget skiing for a while, but I figured I had to set some goals."
The 20-year-old comes from a long line of top athletes. Her grandfather, Asle Sjåstad, is a former Olympic skier (1956, Italy). Her sister Pia is an NCAA alpine champion. Pia's boyfriend is Norwegian Olympic gold medalist Hans Petter (slalom, 1998 Nagano Olympics), and her brother Vetle is a World Cup-level biathlete.
It's no surprise, then, that Tiril quickly picked up where she left off when she returned to competition in February 2015 -- she's hit the podium at all seven comps since. Most recently, at the Dew Tour Breckenridge in mid-December, Tiril used a switch 1080 (one of the only women who throws this trick) to take second place.
In 2016, Tiril will be a favorite for another X Games Aspen gold, and she'll certainly be one of the most popular skiers when X Games makes its debut in Oslo.