All Star Line Up for FIS World Cup Big Air at Winter Games NZ
Cardrona, New Zealand (6 September 2018) – The FIS Junior World Champions in Snowboard Parallel Slalom were crowned today at Cardrona Alpine Resort, while over at the Big Air jump, the world’s best freeskiers and snowboarders were vying for spots in the FIS World Cup final at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ.
After some tight racing through the qualifying rounds, the Snowboard Parallel Slalom field was cut down to sixteen racers in each of the ladies’ and men’s finals. Having dominated yesterday’s JWC Giant Slalom, Team Russia was back on top form with Dmitry Loginov and Llia Vitugov the fastest qualifiers in the men’s field.
Competitors raced head-to-head two at a time through the knock out rounds, with Loginov and Vitugov racing off in the ‘big final’ and Loginov storming home for the JWC title. It was another clean sweep of the podium for Russia with Iaroslav Stepanko taking bronze ahead of Switzerland’s Gian Casanova.
Top qualifier in the ladies’ Snowboard Parallel Slalom, Daniela Ulbing (AUT) held her pace all the way through final rounds to claim the gold medal ahead of Russian athletes Anastasia Kurochkina and Elena Boltaeva.
“It is something special to win the Junior World Championships and I’ve never done it before so I’m really happy,” said Ulbing.
Over at the massive 75-foot jump, the Big Air competitors had plenty of motivation to showcase their most technical and progressive tricks with the first World Cup Big Air of the 2018/19 season also an opportunity to earn AFP Platinum level and World Snowboard Tour Elite International level points.
With 48 world-class snowboarders competing for just 10 spots in the men’s World Cup final and only two runs to impress the judges, going big was the only option. PyeongChang 2018 Olympic silver medallist (Big Air) Kyle Mack (USA) did just that, with a stomped backside triple 1440 Japan grab and a score of 90.60 for the top qualifying spot in heat one.
Recently crowned Junior World Champ in Snowboard Big Air and Slopestyle, Takeru Otsuka (JPN) was right at home in the World Cup field, scoring 88.40 on run one with a frontside triple 1440 mute grab. Teammate Yuri Okuba responded with a backside triple 1440 mute grab which put him through to finals in third place. Leon Vockensperger (GER) and Mons Roisland (NOR) claimed the final two qualifying spots in men’s snowboard heat one.
Japanese riders topped men’s Snowboard heat two, Yutaro Miyazawa spinning a backside triple 1620 mute grab and scoring a 95.60 on his second run, and Hiroaki Kunitake scoring a 92.00 for his backside triple 1440 indy.
No stranger to World Cup podiums, the USA’s Chris Corning booked his place in the finals with a backside triple 1440 melon and a 91.40 on run one. Nicholas Huber (SUI) finished fourth with Clemens Millauer (AUT) on the fifth-place bubble with a score of 88.60.
NZ rider Carlos Garcia Knight pushed hard with one of the biggest tricks of the day, a switch triple 1620, but couldn’t quite stick the landing and missed out on the final.
The women’s snowboard Big Air qualifying saw teammates Miyabi Onitsuka and Reira Iwabuchi from Japan battle for the top score. Onitsuka initially held the lead with a backside 720 mute grab and 92.40 on run one but was bested by Iwabuchi who landed the same trick but with bigger amplitude and smoother execution for a score of 94.00 on run two.
Loranne Smans (Bel) was third, Urska Pribosic (SLO) fourth, Klaudia Medlova (SVK) fifth. NZ rider Corrah Phillips put down two solid runs to qualify for finals in sixth place while Zoi Sadowski-Synnott struggled with her landings and finished outside the cut off in eighth place.
The men’s Freeski Big Air heat two qualifiers – postponed due to high winds yesterday – rounded out an action-packed day. First man out of the gate, Birk Ruud (NOR) set the bar high with a massive left triple 1620 high mute which would see him through to the finals in third place.
Evan McEachran (CAN) span the biggest trick of the day, a switch double 1800 tail grab (five full rotations in the air) with an exceptionally long grab, landing halfway down the landing and leapfrogging in to first place.
NZ’s Finn Bilous went huge with a trick he had just learned, a unique switch triple rodeo 1440, holding the grab through the rotation and stomping the landing for a first run score of 93.40 which put him through to finals in second place.
“I’m pretty stoked to put that down,” said Bilous.
Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) recovered from a heavy landing on run one, putting down a switch triple 1260 with a bow and arrow grab on his second attempt and finishing in fourth place.
James Woods (GBR) brought his trademark octo grab to the table with a switch triple 1440 landed near the bottom of the landing, to complete the top five finalists.
The FIS Freeski World Cup Big Air Final is scheduled to take place at Cardrona Alpine Resort tomorrow (Friday) and the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air Final on Saturday.