Corning Defends Winter Games NZ Big Air Title
The 2019-20 FIS Snowboard World Cup season opened up in spectacular fashion for the U.S. Snowboard Team at the Winter Games NZ big air in Cardrona, New Zealand as Chris Corning (Silverthorne, Colo.) defended his title by once again landing a backside quad cork 1800 melon grab on his second run.
“Being able to defend the Winter Games NZ title feels amazing, but I am happier we just got to ride,” said Corning. “If we did not get to compete today, the contest would have likely been canceled due to weather. Also, I’m really happy to share the podium with Red. It’s moments like these that we work so hard for. Everyone rode really well and I was stoked to watch everyone charge.”
U.S. Snowboard Teammate and Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard (Silverthorne, Colo.) finished second, and Kalle Jarvilehto of Finland finished was third.
With relatively high winds causing a small delay at the start of the competition, event organizers and riders came to the joint decision to run the men’s competition, but with safety in mind, the women would use their qualification results from Friday as the final results. Top qualifier Enni Rukajarvi of Finland was awarded her first World Cup win since 2017, and the fourth of her career, followed by Great Britain’s Katie Ormerod in second, and Norway’s Silje Norendal in third.
The 75-foot kicker was the stage for impressive performances from all riders. Corning was the first to drop for the U.S. and landed a perfect flat spin 1440 melon, a trick that is very difficult to stop the rotation. Gerard followed suit stomping one of the most stylish tricks of the day, a frontside 1440 tail grab.
Rookie pro team rider Luke Winkelmann (Blowing Rock, N.C.) also started the competition strong landing a frontside 1260 tail grab displaying great control in his landing. Lyon Farrell (Haiku, Hawaii) continued the U.S. streak of stomped landings with a skillful backside 1620 melon showing the rest of the field the speed necessary to take it to the sweet spot of the landing.
The energy at Cardrona Alpine Resort rose to a whole new level in run two as Corning stomped his signature backside quad cork 1800. Last season at the Winter Games NZ, Corning became the first rider ever to land a quad cork in the southern hemisphere. With a score of 95, Corning would move comfortably into the top spot. Gerard continued the strong U.S. performance by executing a clean backside 1440 triple cork mute grab complete with a very stylish late backside shifty to the satisfaction of the Kiwi crowd. Winkelmann and Farrell would both struggle to bring their tricks to their feet on run two.
Heading into the final run, Americans held down the top-three positions, but the strong international field stepped it up on their last jump making for an exciting finish. First, Australian Mathew Cox would bump Farrell out of the top-three. Then Canadian Nicolas Laframboise landed backside triple cork 1440 with massive amplitude to bump Gerard into third place. Jarvilehto followed with a switch backside 1440, a very difficult rotation, to overtake Laframboise and bump Gerard into fourth place. Finally, Just as he did in qualifications, Gerard showed his ability to be clutch when it matters most and landed a beautiful backside triple cork 1440 to overtake second-place. Corning would remain the top position and claim the yellow bib after the first big air World Cup.
The Cardona World Cup big air was a stellar start to the season for the U.S. Snowboard Team. From all five Americans performing well in the qualifier, to a great finish by Corning and Gerard in the finals, U.S. riders will undoubtedly be fun watch this competition season. Stay tuned for more action from Winter Games NZ as members of the U.S. Freeski team will take to the halfpipe Sept 6-7.
Men’s snowboard big air finals