By Matt Barr
When ten of the world’s killer talents get together on one of the world’s most progressive slopestyle, you know things are going to get heavy. So it proved today during the final of the tenth Oakley Arctic Challenge here in Oslo.
Two days of pre-quals and semi-finals had seen a field of 32 slimmed down to a group of ten psyched shredders, among them a solid mix of established talent and some of those ‘who dat?’ names that snowboarding seems to throw up with increasing regularity.
In the blue corner, veterans such as Torstein Horgmo, Peetu Piironien, and Mikkel Bang limbered up for the first of their three runs. In the red, a host of newer names looking to shake things up in front of a stoked crowd of Oslo locals, among them Sage Kotsenburg, Mark McMorris, Seppe Smits, and Tore Holvik.
Every rider upped their game today in an effort to make history by taking the tenth TAC title. These days, if you don’t have switch backside 12s or double cork back 10s in the locker, you might as well forget about it, and so it proved after heat one. Seppe Smits ended this one in front with a run that included a back 12, a sick Cab 5 shifty and a front 7 over the length of the hip. Seppe is from Belgium and grew up riding those crazy Euro indoor slopes, which makes his sick riding even more impressive.
He was just ahead of crowd favorite Mark McMorris, who’s double cork backside 1080 to frontside 7 to double backside rodeo 900 had the crowd amped. Peetu Piironien settled into third, while Torstein Horgmo didn’t seem on early form as he sketched a switch backside 12 attempt.
Round two saw the field get more used to the flat light that was making visibility slightly more difficult and throw down yet more hammers, and it was local favorite Mikkel Bang who leapt to the top of the table with a run that including a switch backside 12 and an insanely huge indie nose over the hip. By round’s end, Bang was just ahead of Seppe and McMorris as their two banger first runs had yet to be bested by the rest of the field.
‘The antithesis of the Olympics’ is a phrase that has been bandied around a lot during this week, and today the progressive nature of the judging system truly came into it’s own by letting the crowd see exactly what each of the riders needed to do to catch Banger.
As leader, he dropped first and a slight check on his switch back 12 meant his second run would count as his best. It looked good for him – until Horgmo finally stomped the run he’d been threatening to nail during rounds one and two. He pulled it out with a sick 540 rail combo, a boardslide to cab 270 out, huge switch backside 12, frontside 7 and a final backside 7 transfer over the hip. It was enough to give him a score of 88.90 and push Bang into second.
With Torstein on the throne as leader, we had a simple countdown to see if anyone could beat this monster run, and it soon became clear that it would be down to Peetu, Seppe and McMorris to try to oust the stomping Horgmo.
Under a mackerel sky, Peetu dropped and unveiled the best run of the day: boardslide to Cab 5, backside 10 late cork, backside rodeo and a huuuuuge frontside crail that posted the highest hip score of the day. His 90.60 pushed Horgmo out, and meant only Smits and McMorris could change things. Two sketched runs later, the tenth TAC crown belonged to Peetu.
And so it was a big day of firsts for Finland’s finest as he took the tenth Oakley Arctic Challenge title and his second Swatch TTR World Champion title in a row. Impressively, it is also the first time the TTR World title has been wrapped before the US Open, which gives indication of his dominating form. And he was understandably stoked as he was awarded both crowns.
‘It’s been a great season for me, and now I can chill. I’ve got a couple more contests coming but I’m so stoked right now. TTR two years in a row feels amazing. What can I say?’