The village of Seefeld went from being a quaint little Austria resort village to being overun by over 30,000-plus snowboarding big-air fans in a matter of a few hours. The event area was packed with bodies from the stage to the bleachers, the playback screen was displaying rider’s bios, and the up to the minute results of a live internet polling. The Air & Style is televised live and simulcasted on the radio in many parts of Europe. It wasn’t a big surprise that hometown hero Stephan Gimpl was leading the polling by about 40 percentage points. Michi Albin and Sani Alibabic were the closest crowd favorites, but no one else really had a chance to de-thrown Gimpl.
None of the riders got a warm-up jump. Each quarterfinal consisted of two jumps, highest score counting. The ten girls in the corner jump got cut quickly to three, in order of their qualification: Pauline Richon, Tina Bibaum, and Michele Taggart.
The field of eighteen men in the Corner went to six, again, in order: Mike Michalchuk, Wolle Nyvelt, Romain De Marchi, Tom Rechies, Wanner Thomas, and Travis Parker.
The straight jump cut was to eight, in order: Stefan Gimpl, Andrew Crawford, David Benedek, Michi Albin, Chad Otterstrom, Roger Hjelmstadstuen, Darius Heristchian, and Kevin Sansalone.
Before the corner finals and straight jump semi-finals got underway, Three Doors Down played a quick set of three tunes, including their radio hits, “Kryptonite” and “Loser.”
The ladies kicked things off with two jumps each. Michele Taggart just was not able to get enough speed to get any real amplitude on her backside five. The contest came down to Tina Bibaum and Pauline Richon’s backside five. Tina’s air to fakie with a roast beef grab on her first jump and stalefish on the second put her in second and Pauline’s height on her backside five could have held it’s own with the men. They ended up placing the same way they qualified.
The men’s corner contest came down to five guys, Michalchuk, De Marchi, Nyvelt, Thomas, and Recheis. Recheis smashed onto the lip of the hip and pretty much knocked the wind out of himself. De Marchi’s two tricks of a frontside 360 and backside three alley-oop put him in third. Wolle Nyvelt’s backside 720s earned him second, and just like in practice, Michalchuk’s backflip with a backside air and a final double backflip were too much for anyone to beat.
Props to the riders of the 68Family whom were responsible for two of the more exciting or rebellious parts of the evening. During the “Style” session, 68 kids, Romain De Marchi, Darius Heristchian, and Jonas Emery took off together, Romain and Darius with dueling rodeos, and Jonas in between with a blackfip¿definitely very appreciated by the crowd. The whole time riders were jumping that shiny new Audi sat between the corner hips just begging someone to jib it. When the promoters got wind of the idea they threatened to make whoever tapped the car would have to pay for it. Once the “Style” session was about halfway through, De Marchi lead an onslaught of car jibbers who included Travis Parker, Abe Teeter knocking off a mirror, 50-50s by several riders, and 50-50 to nosepress by Jonas or Darius¿again, the 68Family riders. But it was Keir Dillon with a 720 to transfer over the car who ended up winning the session and the trip to Fiji.
The field of eight final straight jumpers got cut down to Roger Hjelmstadstuen, Stephan Gimpl, and Jussi Oksanen in order of their qualification. The other five riders weren’t too disappointed though because the final eight guys automatically get invited back next year. The other eight invitees who will make up the 2001 Air & Style list were determined and will be determined by contest finishes over the ’00/01 season.
The three remaining straight jumpers headed to the top of the run-in as the Guano Apes played. They’re from Switzerland and have a huge following in Europe but have only started to get some mass recognition in the States thaanks to their song, “Open Your Eyes.” Their set was tight but far too long and this is actually my only complaint for the contest: It took way too long between heats, especially when you’ve been standing in the mud and cold for over six hours. Everyone just wanted the finals to begin.
Jussi Oksanen, Roger Hjelmstadstuen, and Stephan Gimpl each rider got two jumps. Jussi stuck with a switch backside seven for a score of 245. Roger’s first jump was a 900 with enough height to put him way over Jussi, for a score of 275. But with the hometown crowd behind Gimpl, Stephan’s 900 earned him a score of 274, just one little point under Roger. Jussi can do perfect switch backside sevens, but he wasn’t pulling them together tonight. After Jussi’s second jump the contest was down to Gimpl and Hjelmstadstuen and Roger was going for the 1080. He’d been able to get the height needed to pull himself around three full rotations; the question was could he stomp the landing. He almost won the crowd over, too, when he pull the 1080, landing, but with a revert. Since the final three jumps’ scores are not put up on the screen it was anyone’s guess whether Roger’s 1080 scored higher than Stephan’s. Gimpl’s final jump was his winner from last year, fakie 900, stomped clean.
All three riders were wisked over to the main stage for the final scores and announcement of the winner. It was a long five minute period filled with much debate over who was/should win: Roger’s 1080 with a revert, the harder trick, or Stephan’s 900 with a clean landing. In the end the judges awarded the Air & Style title to Stephan Gimpl, the crowd favorite and winner for the second year in a row.
It was off to celebrate and do battle with barkeepers who don’t seem to want to make any money. Even though the service was slow as f¿k, there were more than a few causalities for the evening. When asked how he felt to be a national hero, Stephan said, “Weird” with more sincerity than could be described, but with the biggest sparkle in his eyes. Congratulations.