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Jasmine Baird soars into the record books in Edmonton

Whistler resident wins first career World Cup big air gold in the event's stadium debut

Dec. 10 was a milestone day, both for Jasmine Baird and for the sport of freestyle snowboarding. 

The Whistler resident won her first FIS Big Air Snowboard World Cup gold medal in Edmonton, Alta. with a combined score of 159.50. In so doing, she became champion of the first World Cup big air event ever held in a stadium: Commonwealth Stadium, to be exact. 

Big air is a snowboarding discipline that emphasizes big tricks: competitors get three attempts to land their two most difficult aerial maneuvers. Although a few icons like Jamie Anderson of the United States and Austria's Anna Gasser did not participate, Baird was still in tough against a field that included two-time X Games medallist Reira Iwabuchi of Japan and fellow Canadian Laurie Blouin, the 2018 Olympic silver medallist. She was not intimidated. 

Victory lap

Baird threw down the gauntlet with a cab double underflip 900, much to the delight of a raucous Edmonton crowd 15,000 strong. The 23-year-old followed it up with a crisp backside 720 weddle, getting plenty of amplitude on her second trick to distance herself from the pack. Going into Saturday's final run in the lead, Baird watched as neither Blouin nor top qualifier Iwabuchi nor anyone else could match her two-trick score. She had the luxury of repeating the backside 720 knowing that gold was firmly in hand. 

“This honestly means so much to me,” said Baird, who now has six World Cup podium finishes to her name. “First World Cup win, and to do it in Canada, with my dad here watching…this is the first time he’s ever seen me ride in person at a World Cup and I’m just so hyped that he was here for this one. To be here, with this crowd, in Canada, I’m so hyped. This is such a sick night.

"I've never had the luxury of a victory lap before," she added. "My coach came up to me and gave me a big hug. I usually don't like to watch anyone else drop, for some reason. I don't like to look at the scores. But coach came up, I was the last to drop, and he said, `Congrats on your win."'

Finishing second behind Baird was 18-year-old Evy Poppe of Belgium, the 2020 Youth Olympic Games slopestyle champ who notched a score of 146.50. Iwabuchi, 20, came third with a 143.25. 

Blouin, meanwhile, finished sixth with a score of 125.00 but was quick to congratulate Baird on her victory. Fellow Whistlerite Juliette Pelchat did not qualify for the final and placed 11th. 

Failure to launch

The artificial slope at Commonwealth Stadium proved difficult for many. Eight of the 21 originally-scheduled female competitors did not start the event, and defending Olympic bronze medallist Kokomo Murase pulled out before the final. Several riders felt that they were unable to build enough speed to land their tricks. 

"It's been really, really tough, for sure," admitted Baird, who is originally from Georgetown, Ont. "Compared to the boys, a lot of our field are just lighter than them. Without that weight behind us, it's harder to get that speed. Everyone's pinning it, everyone's doing their absolute best, but it was really tight.

"People were getting pushed from behind or launched by their coaches, there were pull bars up there like they'd have in a race, and I`ve never seen that before. It was definitely a challenge."

Meanwhile, Nicolas Laframboise of Saint-Jean, Que. took bronze in the men's competition with a score of 168.00, stomping a backside triple cork 16 on his last run to vault himself onto the podium. 2022 Australian Olympian Valentino Guseli prevailed (172.50), edging out 2019 slopestyle world champ Chris Corning of the United States, who grabbed silver (172.00). 

"I wasn't planning on doing [the triple cork 16] that got me back into third," Laframboise said. "It was a new one for me, so I was really stoked that I landed it."

Representing Whistler in the men's event were a pair of teenagers: Finn Finestone and Truth Smith. Finestone made the final and placed 18th, while Smith finished 29th. Sea to Sky Olympian Darcy Sharpe was slated to compete but ultimately did not take part.