Don’t miss this! After a Covid-19-shortened season in 2020/21 that saw only one halfpipe World Cup competition take place, World Cup is back this season with three events scheduled to take place at three iconic venues.
These three events are critical as they lead into the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games in Feb. The battle arena to crown the king and queen.
The first event is the Copper Grand Prix kicking into action tomorrow for qualifiers. Follow by the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix going down across January 7th to 8th and the final stop is Switzerland to finish off the 2021/22 halfpipe World Cup season and hand out the crystal globes at the legendary Laax Open.
To watch the Copper Grand Prix event, make sure to stay tuned here. We’ll be hosting a live viewing link of the finals on the site on Sunday, and covering the qualifications action all weekend.
The halfpipe scene blew up a couple months back at The Stomping Grounds training facility in Switzerland. Where triples were being thrown left, right and centre. No longer an urban myth. It’s real and there’s a few riders on the come up that are set to shake the male and female halpipe world this season! We’ve never been more excited to watch this groundbreaking shit go down!
Needing a articulate breakdown of the World Cup Competitive scene. Who’s who, who to look out for and who’s the biggest threat heading into the Olympics? FIS broke it down from the ground.
Kim looms largest, but return of Chinese team should shake things up in women’s field
With only one World Cup and the 2021 World Championships taking place last season as far as FIS competitions go, it’s tough to have an accurate gauge of where most riders are at right now in either the men’s or women’s field as we head into the season-opener in Copper.
With that being said, one thing you can probably count on this season will be the continued dominance of Chloe Kim (USA).
After taking the 2019/20 season off and then returning to competition last year, Kim picked up right where she left off 22 months prior, winning the Laax Open, the X Games, repeating as World Championships gold medallist, and winning the Aspen World Cup US Grand Prix to cap off her perfect season.
To say the reigning Olympic halfpipe gold medallist is a favourite heading into the Beijing 2022 Games is something of an understatement.
However, to start the 2021/22 season at least, the rest of the field won’t have to worry about the force of nature that is Chloe Kim as she – and her exceptionally talented US teammate and Maddie Mastro, the Aspen world champs silver medallist – won’t be on hand at the season-opener in Copper, perhaps to save their energy for when the season ramps up after the holidays.
While the early-season absence of Kim and Mastro puts something of a damper on things for the US team, their spots on the startlist will be quite ably filled by Cai Xuetong and Liu Jiayu, as the two exceptional Chinese riders return to competition after missing all of last season due to national Covid-19 restrictions.
Cai is a nine-time crystal globe winner with 27 World Cup podiums to her name – the most for any FIS Snowboard Park & Pipe rider in both categories. Along with her two World Championships titles (and one silver medal), Cai is arguably the most successful freestyle snowboarder of all time in FIS competitions.
Liu, meanwhile, is the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic silver medallist, as well as the Gangwon 2009 World Champion and a 23-time World Cup podium finisher – with 11 victories. While both she and Cai are now pushing 30 years of age, it seems a safe bet that they’ll slide right back into the upper-echelon of the halfpipe world in their return to competition this season.
Another veteran who continues to remain at the top of the women’s game is Queralt Castellet (ESP). A two time World Championships medallist – including bronze at last season’s Aspen 2021 event – Castellet has only missed the finals once in her last 13 World Cup competitions, putting down the most consistent riding of her career even as she has moved into her 30s.
Further down the list, Japanese team is looking strong on the women’s side with Mitsuki Ono, Sena Tomita and Haruna Matsumoto all owning multiple World Cup podiums, while young guns like Brooke D’Hondt and Elizabeth Hosking of Canada, and Leilani Ettel of Germany are also ones to be watched this season.
White returns, but Japanese team brings triple threat.
Over on the men’s side of things there are a whole whack of compelling storylines set to run their course this season, with none that will be more closely watched than the return to full-time competition of three-time Olympic gold medallist and international superstar Shaun White as he looks to earn a US team spot and compete at what would be a fifth Olympic Winter Games.
Following his heroic final-run victory at the PyeongChang 2018 Games in Korea, White stepped back from competing for three whole years. Though his retirement was rumoured, it was never announced.
Then, last season, after some false alarms at X Games and the World Championships, White finally made his return to competition at the Aspen World Cup US Grand Prix where he immediately put himself back in the conversation with a fourth-place finish, showing that despite some rust, the 35-year-old’s exceptional fundamentals still placed him amongst the world’s best.
With that being said, White is reentering a men’s halfpipe universe that has progressed in leaps and bounds since he was last the dominant force, with the three-headed monster of the Japanese squad and a certain Scotty James (AUS) leading the way.
For anyone paying attention this past autumn, you know that things got heavy in the Japanese pre-season camps, with all three of Yuto Totsuka, Ruka Hirano and Ayumu Hirano (no relation to Ruka) stomping clean triple corks and establishing new benchmarks for what is possible in the pipe.
Already a two-time halfpipe crystal globe winner, Totsuka last season asserted himself as the dominant force in the halfpipe world with Laax Open, X Games, and World Championships victories, as well as a win at the season-ender Aspen World Cup. One of the most explosive riders to ever drop in on a halfpipe, Totsuka will be tough a tough matchup for the rest of the world this season.
Somewhat lost in Totsuka’s shadow is his teammate Ruka Hirano. Ruka famously halted Scotty James’ seemingly endless win streak two seasons ago with a victory in Calgary in the best performance of his young career, and the 19-year-old has only missed the World Cup podium three times in his in the past four seasons. While Totsuka looms largest on the Japanese team, Ruka Hirano rides right alongside.
Rounding out the big three for Japan is Ayumu Hirano, the PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014 Olympic silver medallist. Like White, Ayumu did not drop in on a halfpipe competition for three years following his performance in Korea, and even then he only has an open-class FIS start to his name as well a win at the Japanese National Championships to finish off last season. Still, like his compatriots Totsuka and Ruka Hirano, he stomped a clean triple cork in the pipe this autumn, showing the world he’s ready to make another podium push at Beijing in February.
We’ve gotten this far and we haven’t even really gotten to the elephant in the room – Australia’s Scotty James.
When White and Ayumu stepped back from competition after PyeongChang, James stepped up in a big way, going on a 12-competition win streak that included World Championships, X Games, US Open, Dew Tour and a multitude of World Cup wins.
However, since relinquishing the top of the podium to Ruka Hirano in Calgary, the wins have been hard to come by for James, and while his Japanese rivals were announcing their progression to the world with their clips of triples this autumn, James was strangely quiet.
That doesn’t mean the rumour mill hasn’t been churning, though, and there are whispers that James has been training at a secret location, locking down as many as three different triple cork variations of his own. Unfortunately, James isn’t on the start list for the season-opener in Copper, so the truth to those rumours remains to be seen.
There are, of course, many other to watch out for this season, with Germany’s Andre Hoefflich leading that list after earning his first career World Cup podium at the season-ender in Aspen last March. Jan Scherrer and David Habluetzel of Switzerland, big-boosting Valentino Guseli of Australia, and the USA’s Taylor Gold, Chase Blackwell and Joey Okesson could all make some noise this season, as well.