Backstage At The Big Show: Is Big Air suffering from premature ejaculation?
words: Ed Leigh
You've got to admit it's a valid question, the second heat of qualifying at the 2018 Winter Olympics this morning was one of the most [insert least over used and offensive superlative] incredible/ridiculous/mind melting contests I have ever watched.
For the last twenty years I have reported and MC'd on some of the biggest and most legendary comps, from The Battle to the US Open from The Arctic Challenge to Air and Style and I have never seen or thought I would see that level of tricks combined with such an insane level of consistency. The question on everyone's lips now is whether or not finals can possibly live up to the electrifying scenes we have all just witnessed.
I'm not going to bore you with a trick list recital, just go and watch it because even if you hate the Olympics, it is undeniable that this was a seminal moment in snowboarding and you really need to see it. There had been a real fear that the jumps size was going to diminish the comp, but in actual fact the opposite happened.
The first heat was good, the level of tricks and consistency was indeed mighty and we were treated to a procession of immaculate 14's with Max Parrot barely needing to reveal his full wingspan (mere fs trip 14's with look back landings) to win with a 2.5 point cushion. It was clear that far from limiting the riders the smaller jump had leveled the playing field by taking the quad off the menu. Now it was purely about the size and style of your tricks. A great measure of this was watching Seppe Smits, the slope and Big Air veteran lay down and inch perfect backside double 10 and score 59.25. This used to be a proud, pulsating trick that Seppe and fellow apex predator of yester year Peetu Piiroinen had used to devastating effect to penetrate the judges as recently as 2013. Now 5 years on it's like trying and continuing the innuendo theme, to put an oyster in a parking meter.
As the second heat started to drop it became clear very quickly that we had moved to a different level. After his impressive Olympic debut in slope, Kiwi Carlos Garcia Knight dispensed with the protocol of respecting a stacked big name heat and chucked a huge switch back 1620 and when tidied up on his second run it was without question the trick of the session. Like Zoi Sadowski Synott before him, Carlos showed the world that in the last four years the Kiwi's have been very busy down under away from prying eyes.
Mark McMorris has one of the best front triples in the business, but the sight of him looking impotent at the end of the first run having thrown it perfectly was a measure of the session that was unfolding. And I say session because that's exactly what it felt like, not a rigid comp but proper, one upping, crowd yelling, send it session.
That was never more evident than when Torgeir Bergrem and Jonas Boesiger, having both gone massive with their first run 16's, used the safety afforded by those scores to tease the judges. In Jonas' case it was to arc out a method, Torgeir was a little more sophisticated and chose instead to launch that beautiful back 5 stalefish that morphs into a switch method in the last 270.
Yes, a few more riders were yet to drop, and yes, Vlad Khadarin the little known Russian got pretty close to an 1800, but for me, Torgeir's jump was the ecstatic last shudder of an orgasmic hour of snowboarding. Can the second time possibly be any better? Well it's hard to say, but with a format change to 3 jumps, best two count and I don't know if we'll feel the same spontaneous moment of gay abandon. Shit I hope so.