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Women’s Big Air Qualifiers Was the Highest Standard of Riding Ever Witnessed

With a firsthand look from the commentator's booth in PyeongChang, BBC correspondent Ed Leigh offers some words on what the world has witnessed during the snowboarding events at the 2018 winter olympics. 

Redemption at Women’s Olympic Big Air Qualifiers

Words: Ed Leigh

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and today the kicker in the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre felt the full force of vented frustration from the world's best female snowboarders.

No one should be in any doubt that qualifying saw the highest standard of riding anyone has ever witnessed in a female big air competition. Only a fool would argue that the women weren't proving a point today, delivering a visual reprimand to those who offered them no choice but to diminish their talent in slopestyle a week ago.

The venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics Big Air debut. PHOTO: Mark Clavin

But to reduce today's riding to a protest would perhaps be even more insulting. Three days of relaxed and enjoyable big air practice on the 19.5m/60ft table, which under the trade descriptions act should be called medium-sized air, cleared the slate and set the tone for the action.

Rumors swirled that because Reira Iwabuchi was laying down double 10s so consistently, she must have a 12 on lock. This rumor has been proved, thus far, unfounded. Iwabuchi needed only a perfect cab 9 to qualify, but come finals, she will be the rider who has managed to keep the most up her sleeve.

Fellow 16-year-old kiwi Zoi Sadowski Synott has been on most people's radar since the World Champs last year when she destroyed a course that scared the living piss out of most riders. Today was no different. She sent a double wildcat to last line, and then just when everyone thought she might be a one 'double backflip' pony, she pulled out a beautiful switch back 9. The fact that it was so perfect and came from nowhere may have doubled its impact, but for me, it was the trick of the day.

That is saying something, though, as you'll realize when we run through the rest of the tricks that were landed. Let's start with the Cab double unders (or cab double 9's depending on your preference) from Anna Gasser, Laurie Blouin, Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino. Anderson's was deemed the cleanest and briefly put her in second behind Sadowski in round two. But for the double gold medallist, it was short lived as the onslaught began.

Anna Gasser. PHOTO: Mark Clavin

First the steady Finnish hand of Enni Rukajarvi bowed out with a failed cab 10. Then Iwabuchi, opting not to unleash the much vaunted dub 10, laid a cab 9 down as softly as the baby Jesus himself and took the lead. Next in was Yuka Fujimori who sent a Cab ten deep and stuck it, to the crowds, the MC (and beau) Henry Jackson's and seemingly her own surprise. Jackson's celebrations were thought entirely un-Olympic and he later received a dressing down, but in these parts and under the circumstances, that will be considered a badge of honour.

Next in was the rodeo queen Silje Norendal. While the front 7 off the toes helped her claim three consecutive X Games golds between 2013 and 15, it was never going to stand up to the immense fire power being thrown at the kicker, and this most perfect offering could only claim 10th.

So it was the turn of Anna Gasser. She'd already landed the cab double under 9, so would she unveil the cab 10? Yes, and it was a thing of beauty. An absolute gem that saw her bank 98 points and deservedly so. The scalps taken by the cut speak volumes about the level Cheryl Maas, Enni Rukajarvi, Hailey Langland and Klaudia Medlova all missed out and the stage is set for an incredible final.

See Anna Gasser’s top big air run here:


If you're concerned that a smaller jump will detract from the men's comp, worry not. It's big enough for triples which means we're going to see trip 14s and 16s separated by style and grabs rather than a quad-off, and for me personally, that's good news.

See more from TransWorld SNOWboarding here.