LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (August 4, 2008) New Zealand's largest snowboarding event, the Burton New Zealand Open Snowboarding Championships, came to a close on Saturday after four intense days of competition. Part of the Burton Global Open Series and the Swatch Ticket To Ride World Snowboard Tour, the 6th Annual New Zealand Open showcased some of the world's top snowboarders competing in halfpipe, slopestyle and quarterpipe competitions for over NZ$50,000 in prize money.
Hundreds of competitors from all over the world flocked to Snow Park NZ to compete for their piece of the prize purse. Action got underway on Wednesday with men's and women's halfpipe pre-qualifiers and qualifiers taking place. The women's field was dominated by first place finisher, 16-year-old Jiayu Liu (CHN), whose huge amplitude impressed the judges. Brennen Swanson (USA) took first in men's qualifiers with a big, clean run that featured a multitude of grabs and rotation variations.
High winds and poor visibility delayed the start of slopestyle qualifiers on Thursday, resulting in a decision to advance all female contestants directly to Friday's slopestyle semi-finals. The competition finally got underway in the afternoon, where top qualifier, Sam Hulbert (USA) stomped each of his landings, putting down a solid run that included back to back 900's.
Although the weather continued to be a factor on Friday during slopestyle semi-finals and finals, the riders didn't allow it to affect their performance. Mikkel Bang (NOR) consistently landed his runs, each scoring higher than the last. His final run that earned him the title spot, Bang had this to say of his win, "I didn't have any expectations when I set out this morning, the weather wasn't great but the snow was good and soft and it turned into a really good day!"
It was also Jamie Anderson's final run that achieved her highest score in women's slopestyle finals. She continued to raise the bar and push her riding to the next level, resulting in a winning run that scored an impressive 34 points higher then her next closest competitor. The 17-year-old California native had this to say of her day, "The jumps were well built and the rails were fun. If it had been sunny, it would have been perfect!"
Later that night, some of the world's best riders dropped into a lit 30 foot quarterpipe for the chance to take home up to NZ$4500 in prizes for both men and women. When it was all said and done Kelly Clark (USA) took $1000 for Best Trick after throwing a backside 540 that couldn't be matched. Kelly also pocketed the prize for Highest Air, adding another $1000. But despite her aerial dominance, Kelly was bested by Kiwi, Juliane Bray who took home $2500 for stomping trick after trick and landing Best Overall. For the men, it was all about the brothers Murakami. Hailing from Japan, younger brother Fumiyuki took the Best Trick with a McTwist while the elder Daisuke won $1000 for Highest Air. Brennan Swanson won Best Overall for landing the most trick variations during the course of the jam.
Saturday saw a field of 40 men and 21 women compete for the halfpipe titles worth NZ$5,000. In the women's competition Kelly Clark took the lead early in semi-finals, with the highest score of the day – 86.50. Hot on her heels was 16-year-old Jiayu Liu, while slopestyle champion, Jamie Anderson took eighth, just barely making finals. Unexpectedly, Anderson's first run in finals landed her a score of 84.25 and also earned her best trick with an inverted backside 540. Throughout finals her score held out, and Anderson took home a first place victory for the second time in two days. "I didn't expect to win at all. My first run was pretty good and I knew I was maybe up there but I didn't think top three", said Jamie. "I'm stoked, it was a good day."
The Japanese contingent was super strong throughout the men's semi-finals, taking six spots in the finals. Kokubo and Daisuke Murakami rose up in the field with strong runs that took first and third respectively. Daisuke Murakami put together the run of the day but fell on the last hit, allowing Kazuhiro to hold on to first with a score of 92.50. However Murakami got best trick with his frontside 1080 tailgrab. Said Kokubo of his win –"I tried to create my own style of riding; I didn't just want to win, I wanted to do it in style!"
With the Burton New Zealand Open finished, it's on to the Australian Open, taking place at Perisher Blue from September 1-5, 2008. The Australian Open is the second stop on the 2008-2009 Burton Global Open Series. James Hamilton and Jamie Anderson are currently in the lead for the $100,000 Burton Global Open Series Championship title. The BGOS boasts the most lucrative cumulative prize purse in snowboarding – over $900,000 – with equal prize money to men and women.
After Saturday's SIX(6)STAR NZO halfpipe finals, Chas Guldemond took the top spot in the Swatch TTR World Tour rankings followed by Janne Korpi in second and James Hamilton in third. Reining Swatch TTR women's champion, Jamie Anderson, maintains her first place ranking, with Sina Candrian and Ellery Hollingsworth in second and third place, respectively.
2008 NZO Halfpipe Final Results
1 Kazuhiro Kokubo JPN $5,000
2 Markus Malin FIN $2,500
3 Daisuke Murakami JPN $1,250
4 Kazuumi Fujita JPN $500
5 Ryo Aono JPN $250
6 Janne Korpi FIN $250
Halfpipe Best Trick
Daisuke Murakami JPN $1,000
1 Jamie Anderson USA $5,000
2 Jiayu Liu CHN $2,500
3 Kelly Clark USA $1,250
4 Shiho Nakashima JPN $500
5 Juliane Bray NZE $250
6 Kendall Brown NZE $250
Halfpipe Best Trick
Jamie Anderson USA $1,000
2008 NZO Slopestyle Final Results
1 Mikkel Bang NOR $5,000
2 Charles Reid CAN $2,500
3 Chas Guldemond USA $1,250
4 Eric Willett USA $500
5 Tim Humphreys USA $250
6 Sam Hulbert USA $250
1 Jamie Anderson USA $5,000
2 Cheryl Maas NED $2,500
3 Spencer O'Brien CAN $1,250
4 Shelly Gotlieb NZE $500
5 Callie Conaghan AUS $250
6 Sina Candrian SUI $250
2008 NZO Quarterpipe Results
Brennen Swanson USA Best Overall $2,500
Fumiyuki Murakami JPN Best Trick $1,000
Daisuke Murakami JPN Highest Air $1,000
Juliane Bray NZE Best Overall $2,500
Kelly Clark USA Best Trick $1,000
Kelly Clark USA Highest Air $1,000