Japan claimed not one or two, but a mindboggling five out of six podiums on Saturday at the Snowboard Big Air Event in Chur, Switzerland. After yesterday’s cancellation of the Freeski event, it was a relief that the Snowboard Qualifiers and Finals were possible to be held on Saturday, October 21, 2023.
It was not without a ton of effort by the organizers in Chur and the jump crew from Schneestern that the jump was restored after Friday’s deluge. The kicker was in excellent shape on Saturday and qualifications went off without a hitch but conditions became tricky again in the evening for the Finals and tripped up some strong contenders, like Big Air Crystal Globe Winner Valentino Gueseli from Australia, who failed to stomp two of his three landings.
First place in the Women’s Event went to Kokomo Murase from Japan, who stomped a backside-double-cork-1080 Weddle on her first run and a frontside-1080-truck driver on her third run, earning the 18-year-old 179.25 points. Murase had also won the Big Air in Chur two years ago at only 16.
Second place went to Murase’s teammate and last year’s winner Reira Iwabuchi, who also showed off a backside-double-cork-1080 Weddle and followed it up with a frontside-1080-Melon to earn her 175.50 points.
Third place went to young-gun Mia Brookes from the UK. The 16-year-old chucked a masssive cab-1080-Melon and followed it up with a backside-900-Indy, earning her 169.75 points. Brookes became the youngest World Champion in Freestyle at the 2023 World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia.
The Men’s podium was entirely in Japanese hand, with Hiroto Ogiwara leading his countrymen on the podium. The 18-year-old claimed his first World Cup victory with a switch- backside-1620-Melon on his first run and a switch-frontside-1620-Weddle on his second run, earning him a score of 171.50 points.
Second place went to his teammate Kira Kimura who chucked the same jumps for a total score of 168.00. Third place went to last year’s winner Takeru Otsuka, who also stomped a switch-backside-1620-Melon like his teammates on run one and a backside-1620-melon on run two, earning him 167.50 points.
No North American snowboarder had qualified for the Finals, which only saw the top 10 from the two Qualification Heats battle it out for the podium. Nevertheless, there were some respectable finishes from North American athletes, with Canada’s Finn Finestone, Jacob Legault, Cameron Spalding and Francis Jobin finishing in 13th, 15th, 31st and 47th respectively, while Team USA snowboarders Fynn Bullock-Womble, Brian Rice and Liam Johnson finished in 14th, 24th and 46th respectively.
The Japanese have traditionally been strong in Big Air but the dominance in Chur this last weekend is a testament to the strength of Japan’s youth program for snowboarders. Japan had also won the FIS Nations Cup trophy in 22/23 in Snowboard Park & Pipe.
Despite the inclement weather, crowds still turned up for the Big Air Festival and the party on the main stage continued until well into the night after the presentation.