EDMONTON — No Canadians made it to the podium at Saturday night’s FIS World Cup Big Air Snowboard event at Commonwealth Stadium. But the night saw some snowboarding history being made.
New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott struck gold in the women's event, while Japan’s Taiga Hasegawa won the men's final.
Sadowski-Synnott earned her gold by acing a jump that, before this weekend, had never been tried before in women’s snowboarding.
She stunned many of her fellow riders when she nailed a switchback 1260 and got a whopping 99 out of 100 in qualifying. She tried it with her first jump in the finals, but fell.
She tried it again with jump No. 2, got a 97.25 score, and never looked back.
“That trick hasn’t been done in competition before, so I didn’t really know what to expect," said Sadowski-Synnott, who took silver at the 2022 Winter Olympics Big Air competition. “I’m super-hyped on the score.”
But, after missing that first jump, she knew the pressure was on. Two of the three jumps count toward the final score, so she left herself no margin for error.
“It really sucked, not landing the first one,” she said. “But I just stick with the jump, I’ve done it so many times over the past few days, and the vibe was so good here.”
Hasegawa hit all three of his tricks, all five-rotation 1800s, to win the men's event. China’s Su Yiming, winner of gold in Big Air at the 2022 Olympics, finished second. After taking a year off, American Redmond Gerard returned to World Cup competition in Edmonton and collected the bronze.
Nicolas Laframboise of Saint Jean, Que., was the top men’s finisher in qualifying, but finished sixth. He wowed the crowd in 2022 when he earned bronze, while wearing a blue Edmonton Oilers alternate jersey while he completed his tricks. This year, he added a bright orange Oilers helmet to the wardrobe.
And he put on a show — he began his first run by coming to a stop 20 feet out of the gate. He raised his arms, urging the crowd to make more noise. Laframboise resumed his run and nailed a triple-backside-flip.
“That’s how I gauge my speed for that trick,” he said.
He landed his second jump, a backside 1620. But he lost out on a podium bid when he failed to hit his third trick.
“I was going for something big, a backside quad 18 (five rotations). I think if I had nailed it, it would have been good enough to get me on the box (podium). But this is a bit of a small jump to do it. I didn’t get any power off the takeoff.”
He said that jump is something that’s best reserved for the larger mountain jumps.
Liam Brearley of Granvenhust, Ont., didn’t land his second attempt cleanly and took a heavy fall in his third jump and finished seventh.
“It didn’t go quite my way in the finals,” said Brearley. “I wanted to clean up my second trick, but couldn’t get it done, but I am still happy with the result.”
Sadowski-Synnott won a women’s competition that was plagued with missed tricks. Only 10 of 24 attempted jumps were completed successfully. She finished ahead of Great Britain’s Mia Brookes and Anna Gasser, the Austrian who has won gold medals in Big Air at the previous two Olympic Games.
It was a disappointing night for the Canadians. Jasmine Baird of Georgetown, Ont., won this event in 2022, but she fell on her second and third attempts and had to settle for seventh.
She had a heavy crash on her third run.
“I thought I was going bigger than I was,” she said. “I kind of slowed down my rotation. Once I spotted the landing, I was thinking, ‘oh, this won’t work.’ It was too late at that point. Oh well, no injuries, so all good."
Quebec City’s Laurie Blouin fell on each of her three jumps and finished eighth.
Australian Valentino Guseli, who won the 2022-23 men’s overall World Cup Big Air title, failed to land two of three jumps in the semifinals and didn’t make it to Saturday night’s final.
After 13 of 21 female competitors pulled out in 2022 because they couldn’t gather enough speed to get the airtime needed to complete their tricks, organizers made major changes to the course.
This year riders plunged down a 15-storey ramp that extended 100 feet above the top row of the top deck of Commonwealth Stadium. That ramp was two storeys longer than it was in 2022.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2023.
Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press