The first competition of the 2018 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ took place at Cardrona Alpine Resort today with qualifying rounds for the FIS Junior Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Big Air World Championships 2018. It was a day for big tricks and personal bests from a strong international field.
The world’s best junior freeski and snowboard athletes have travelled to New Zealand to compete in the International Ski Federation (FIS) Junior Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships 2018, being held as part of Winter Games NZ and comprising 13 events from 24 August – 6 September. The Junior World Championship Big Air is also sanctioned by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) at Gold level, and by the World Snowboard Federation (WSF) at National level.
There was no holding back in heat one as the male skiers and snowboarders pushed hard for a top six score and a place in the finals. Norway’s Birk Ruud, world number one on the AFP Big Air ranking, decided it was time to pull a brand-new trick out of the bag and stomped it on the first attempt.
“Yesterday I had a really good practice and I learned a new trick, a right double cork 14 blunt,” he explained. “Today I felt really good for the qualies and I stomped it on the first run, I was really happy. On the first run you’re always pretty nervous so when you land it’s a really good feeling.”
It set the bar high but Sweden’s Oliwer Magnusson was up for the challenge, also landing a double cork 1440 blunt and scoring two points higher for a well-executed trick with a well-held grab and big amplitude to claim the top spot, with Ruud second. USA’s Kiernan Fagan followed in third.
“That’s what I’ve been practising this week so I’m hyped to land it,” said Magnusson.
Ben Barclay was the top placed NZ skier, finishing 11th and landing a switch left double 12 for the first time in competition.
“I landed a new trick on the second run so I’m super happy with how I skied,” said Barclay. “I landed my first run so I thought I’d just give it a whirl.”
In men’s snowboard heat one Japan’s Takeru Otsuka landed in the top qualifying spot with a cab triple 1440 indy and a score of 96.00. Niek van der Velden (NED) placed second with a backside double 1260 Japan. Moritz Boll (SUI) was happy to land a back triple on his first competition back after an extended injury break, and finish in third.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Boll. “This is my first contest for one and a half years, after an injury. It’s a good comeback.”
Heat two followed on for the men with another six finals spots up for grabs. USA athletes took out the top three spots in men’s ski with Ryan Stevenson up top on 91.60 points with a left triple cork 1440 safety grab. Cody Laplante was close behind on 89.8 and Mac Forehand third on 88.20.
“The jump is running perfect. I had a really good practice, got all my tricks done and I’m stoked to land both runs,” said Stevenson.
Snowboard heat two went to Canadian John Macdougall with a score of 90.20 for a stomped backside 1440 triple cork mute. The USA’s Luke Winkelmann was hot on his heel with a score of 89.00, landing a frontside double 1260 tail. Samuel Jaros (SVK) qualified for finals in third place with a backside triple 1440 mute.
The women’s snowboard competition was held on the final jump in the Big Bucks slopestyle course with the top eight moving through to finals. 13-year-old X Games gold medallist Kokomo Murase (JPN) stomped her mark on the competition, scoring top points for her backside 720 melon grab. The USA’s Jade Thurgood went for a big backflip indy grab and landed herself in second place. Ziyan Ren (CHN) landed a clean frontside 360 indy for third place and her spot in the finals.
With only eight women on the start list, the women’s ski Big Air competition will be held as a straight finals competition tomorrow (Saturday 25th).
Competition continues at Cardrona Alpine Resort on Saturday 25th August with men’s snowboard Big Air finals first on the schedule at 9.15am, followed by men’s and ladies’ freeski Big Air finals and rounding out with ladies’ snowboard Big Air Finals.