Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American Maddie Bowman won the first-ever Olympic gold medal on Thursday in the women's freestyle halfpipe event.

The two-time defending X Games champion was third after qualifying, but posted the two best runs in the final round, including a score of 89.0 in her second run to edge France's Marie Martinod by 3.6 points.

Japan's Ayana Onozuka claimed the bronze with a score of 83.20. She was also a third place finisher at the world championships.

Although she had won four of her six events to start the season, Bowman may have been a bit overlooked here in Sochi due an 11th-place finish at the Olympic test event here last February.

Martinod, meanwhile, had been retired, but returned after a five-year absence when she learned that halfpipe skiing would be added to the Olympic program. It was Canadian skier Sarah Burke, who had helped coax her out of retirement.

However, Burke, one of the bigger advocates for this sport's inclusion into the Olympics, died following a nasty spill in training in 2012.

Rosalind Groenewoud was the top Canadian finisher, ending in seventh place.

The course continued to be the story at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, as skiers fell throughout the final round, including the three other Americans, Brita Sigourney, Annalisa Drew and Angeli Vanlaanen, who finished sixth, ninth and 11th, respectively.

Snowboarders, of course, have been using the halfpipe for their death-defying tricks since the Nagano Games back in 1998, but the decision was made in 2011 to add the ski halfpipe to the Olympic lineup for the Sochi Games.

American David Wise won the men's competition on Tuesday.