Ah, the World Cup’s return after a five-week hiatus promises to be a stirring spectacle, drawing us back to the hallowed grounds of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing for some exhilarating big air action. The anticipation is palpable as qualifications kick off on Friday, culminating in a showdown under the luminous Saturday night lights. Here, the top eight women and the top ten men will engage in a fierce battle for podium glory.
Leading the charge among the women is Austria’s Anna Gasser, returning to the site of her impressive back-to-back Olympic big air triumphs at the Shougang Park venue. At 32, Gasser stands as a formidable force, a yardstick against which all other riders are measured in women’s snowboarding. Will her trademark triple cork make an appearance?
Yet, the Japanese contingent in Beijing poses a formidable challenge. With the likes of Reira Iwabuchi, Miyabi Onitsuka, and Mari Fukada, the competition grows intense. Iwabuchi, who triumphed at the season opener in Chur, made history as the first woman to land a triple cork in X Games last year. The thought that she might revisit that jaw-dropping feat this week after her attempt at the Games two years ago lingers in the air.
Canada’s Laurie Blouin, the second woman to nail a triple cork in competition, adds to the excitement. The question looms: Is the monumental jump here conducive to witnessing the first-ever triple inverted rotation in FIS competition history?
Notably, Great Britain’s Mia Brookes, the youngest-ever FIS Snowboard World Champion, carries the momentum from her groundbreaking performance last season. Her display of the first-ever flat spun 1440 indicates she’s a force to reckon with among the big air elite.
For the men, the lineup is nothing short of extraordinary. China’s Su Yiming, the reigning big air Olympic gold medalist, commands attention after a hiatus following his historic win in Beijing in 2022. His return, marked by an array of spectacular spins in training, suggests a daunting challenge for the rest of the field.
However, the Japanese squad, spearheaded by Taiga Hasegawa, presents a fierce competition. Hasegawa’s recent feat of stomping 1980s in all four ways elevates the anticipation. Yet, at the season opener in Chur, Hiroto Ogiwara seized the spotlight, accompanied by Kira Kimura and Takeru Otsuka, showcasing the depth of talent within the Japanese team.
Beyond Asia, names like Valentino Guseli from Australia, Nic Laframboise, Cameron Spalding, and Liam Brearley from Canada, and Ian Matteoli from Italy add depth and intrigue to the event. Nicolas Huber, the Swiss rider with a flair for the nastiest switch backside 1800 nose grab, promises a captivating display.
This weekend promises to be monumental, a clash of titans on the snow. Tune in on Saturday to witness the spectacle unfold live.