Some of the world’s top slopestyle riders soared into perfect blue skies at Cardrona Alpine Resort today to launch the first snowboard event of Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015.
In the qualifying heats for the FIS Snowboard World Cup Slopestyle, Japanese elite rider Yuki Kadono – currently ranked number two on the World Snowboard Tour – laid down an impressive first run that turned out to be the best score of the day.
On the six-feature course Kadono combined a Miller flip lipslide 270 out, a Hardway 270 boardslide, a 50/50 pole jam backside 180 out, a cab 9 underflip, a frontside 1080 indy, and a backside 1080 mute.
Despite a 30-minute delay for a breeze to die down, Kadono had high praise for Cardrona.
“I come here every year because they always do a good job of shaping and maintaining the course. It’s a little tight but it’s better to begin the season this way than with a massive course. I’m focused on doing what I want to do and hope to make the finals that way.”
The challenging course comprises three rail pads and three kickers. The rail pads include a jib feature with one down-flat-down and two downrails, a wall ride with a step up onto a small butter box onto a downrail, then a cannon pole jam and a normal flat-down rail, and finally a gap jump with a butter box in front and another wall ride with a pole jump. Competitors then hit a three-kicker line with jumps increasing in size – 12m, 15m and 18m.
Kiwi hope Carlos Garcia Knight from Christchurch came out with a strong first run to hold second place in the first heat, but was just squeezed into fourth place after the final runs by Japan’s Keita Inamura and Canada’s Michael Ciccarelli.
But he still came out smiling and rapt to be one of the ten heading to the final on Saturday. “I’m so happy with my runs, especially since my first one was probably the best I’ve ever done. My second run was good, I definitely stepped it up on the last trick, which could be better.”
He also had praise for the venue and the Games. “Cardrona really puts it on. They have everything: an amazing pipe, perfect jumps and an amazing rail course.
“As an athlete, it’s awesome to have Winter Games NZ here because it definitely gives you a big push to focus early on and get a good run in the early season. It’s an awesome event and I’m so glad New Zealand has an event that really shows off what we’ve got here.”
In the women’s comp, Olympic champion Jamie Anderson surprised noone by taking out the honours with the top score in her first run, a clear ten points ahead of the next two competitors, Canada’s Laurie Blouin and Switzerland’s Elena Koenz.
Anderson, the reigning Audi quattro Winter Games NZ champion who took gold for the USA in the inaugural Winter Olympic snowboard slopestyle event at Sochi 2014, nailed a half-cab tap, a frontside boardslide, transfer to frontside lipslide, a boardslide pole jam 270 out, backside 540 mute, switch backside 540 indy and a frontside 720 indy.
Anderson enjoyed the chance to get funky. “The course is really fun. There’s a really sick rail line, it’s super creative, and really good jumps.”
Up-and-coming young rider Zoi Sadowski Synnott was the best of the Kiwis but her 14th place didn’t get her into the leading six women who go through to the finals.
Head judge Ola Sundekvist was generally impressed with the standards on show on the slopes. “The qualifiers were of a high level today. It was really fun to watch.”
Sundekvist noted that the competition had pioneered a new system of judging. “It’s the first time we’ve done qualifications using the section-by-section or SLS judging system in FIS World Cup history. We need to decide what needs to be improved, but it’s very exciting.”
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 continues tomorrow with qualification for the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Halfpipe at Cardrona near Wanaka in the morning followed by the official opening ceremony at Coronet Peak near Queenstown. The opening ceremony features the Coronet Peak Night Slalom with some of the world’s best alpine ski racers, including reigning Olympic champions Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety from USA, competing under floodlights in front of spectators on the skifield’s main viewing deck. The quarter finals begin at 4.15pm with the opening ceremony starting at 6pm.