Big Air Finals | X Games Oslo 2016
X Games Olso made history with the tallest scaffolding jump ever built towering high above the city center and drawing tens of thousands of Norwegian fans to witness the big air finals. In another X Games first, women were also included in the competition, opening the door for the one of the six invited riders to grab a brand new award. On the men’s side the elimination round took out hometown favorite Stale Sandbech and experienced big air riders like Sebastien Toutant, which led to a show down between Yuki Kadono, Max Parrot and Norway’s own Torgeir Bergrem in a battle of the triple corks.
A crisp, sunny afternoon in downtown Oslo set the stage for the women to kick things off, and their inaugural big air appearance did not disappoint. 2015 X games bronze medalist Christy Prior wasted no time getting into podium position with a frontside 720 on her first hit. Veteran competitor and Olympic medalist Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas followed with a front seven as well and moved into second. Spencer O’Brien showed up to ride too, but just missed the medal position by 1 point, and surprisingly Jamie Anderson, the little lady who usually wins everything had some trouble this time, going down hard and walking away with a bloody nose for her efforts. But the trick of the day went to Cheryl Maas, who after 10 years of X Games appearances finally got her first medal with a tweaked out backside 900 taligrab, a trick she learned just this week on the jump.
“This is the best one ever built, and the best one I’ve ever ridden,” exclaimed Maas. “We had such an amazing view up there, we had great weather with some super nice sunsets. It was a little hard for me to look out because there were so many people watching, so I just kind of kept my eyes to the ground and stayed focused, but it was amazing.”
As day turned to night, the lights shined brighter, the musical acts began to perform and the huge crowd was ready for the main event. Norway’s snowboarding godfather and Artic Challenge creator Terje Haakonsen christened the jump with a backflip method to officially get things going, and from then on the contest was a mind-blowing display of skill and courage. Even Terje, our most vocal critic of all things competitive was impressed.
“There’s a love and hate with all contests, and you can decide yourself if you want to be a part of it. But I think it’s good for the progression and having the X Games here is a lot heavier than all of the other events,” admitted Terje. “ESPN, for the good and the bad, they’ve done a lot for action sports.”
With the dominant Mark McMorris out of the contest after his brutal injury at the Air and Style Los Angeles last weekend on a similar jump, it wasn’t a question of what trick was going to win, it was who would do it best. And although every rider was fearless and impressive, these big air contests are becoming a little predictable.
Japanese rider Yuki Kadono was the first to set the bar at a backside 1620 triple cork, scoring a 90.66. Billy Morgan tried to follow but was short 180 degrees with a backside 1440 triple, earning a 79.33 that was good enough for bronze. And X Games Aspen gold medalist Max Parrot got a 1440 out of way first before landing his own back 1620 triple and scoring just a fraction of a point behind Yuki with a 90.33. The only rider left that could upset the balance was Norway’s Torgeir Bergrem, who was dropping last after qualifying first the day before, but could not quite pull it together in front of the massive crowd chanting his name. And with that, the Japanese men swept gold at the snowboarding events at X Games Oslo 2016.
Oslo played a great host to the X Games, but as the Norwegian Sports Confederation flexes their power and tries to get drug testing brought into the event, the future here is uncertain. Snowboarding can only hope that Terje’s beloved Artic Challenge returns next year as a welcome alternative to the standard contest scene.
“Artic Challenge is a little different, and I know it’s a cliché but it’s more about the lifestyle,” said Terje. It’s a different format, and this [the X Games] is not a replacement. So hopefully next year we’re going to bring the Artic Challenge back, not here in Oslo, but further north. It looks like we’re going to pull off a quarterpipe, so hopefully we’ll be able to. I think people are ready for the next generation to hit a quarter.”