The ramp has been built, the snow is in place, the crowds are ready to come and cheer, and now the athletes are in PyeongChang ahead of the FIS Snowboard World Cup which takes place on 25-26 November at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center.
This is the first of the 2016/2017 season’s test events ahead of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and it kicks-off a run of 24 events that will allow venues and operational assumptions to be tried and tested, workforce to be trained, and gives athletes the chance to experience PyeongChang and the competition set-up and facilities.
Big Air is making its debut as an Olympic event in PyeongChang 2018. It will be contested in both men’s and ladies’ categories and will join eight existing individual events within snowboard to bring the total to ten. The introduction of the event is to attract a larger youth audience to the Games and should also increase TV and media interest with the excitement of athletes performing a series of tricks after launching off a massive ramp. The newly built venue in PyeongChang is the largest Big Air ramp in the world, with total height from start to finish reaching 49 meters and maximum slope angle of 40 degrees, allowing athletes more time in the air to show off their techniques.
Big Air has featured in the FIS World Championships since 2003. Accordingly it is well established within winter sports, and therefore this event welcomes a highly competitive lineup of athletes.
A total of 56 male and 39 female athletes are competing from 23 nations this week. Canada and the United States have the highest contingent at 20 each, followed by New Zealand with 11 and Japan with 10. They are now in PyeongChang preparing for the competition which begins with qualifications on Friday (25th) before moving onto the semi-finals and finals on Saturday (26th).
Star athletes to look out for this week include a trio from Canada, namely Mark McMorris, Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant. Along with local star Minsik Lee of Korea and Yuki Kadono of Japan.
McMorris is an X-Games multi-gold medalist who took second place at this year’s X-Games in Aspen behind compatriot Parrot. Toutant jumped his way into first place in Air and Style in Innsbruck this year and was third in the 2016 World Championships of Snowboarding.
Minsik Lee, aged 16, shows great promise after collecting fourth place at the Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games and went on to take top spot at the Korea Nation Cup this year. The one they will all be looking to beat this week is Kadono who is on top form after walking away with first place in the Oslo X-Games and Air and Style in Los Angeles.
There are also some top female boarders to look out for at Alpensia including Jamie Anderson of the U.S. The gold medalist in Sochi in women’s slopestyle ranked in first place in the overall standing in freestyle during the 2015/16 season and has five FIS victories to her name. Fellow American Karly Shorr, aged 22, is another one tipped for success. She finished second at the ladies’ slopestyle at the 2016 Snowboard FIS World Cup held in Bokwang, another of PyeongChang 2018’s Olympic venues, in February of this year.
LEE Hee-beom, President & CEO of PyeongChang 2018, said, “We are delighted to welcome the athletes here to PyeongChang this week for the FIS Snowboard World Cup. Big Air is an exciting new event that will debut at the Games in 2018 so it is very exciting for spectators and viewers around the world to get a sneak preview at Alpensia this week.
“Most importantly this is a wonderful opportunity for the athletes and officials to experience the competition venue and PyeongChang ahead of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. We aim to use this week as important learning experience for staff across all our functional areas to ensure that we deliver the best competition for everyone involved next year. We wish all those competing the very best of luck and hope they enjoy their time with us in PyeongChang.”
The series of test events will be a unique opportunity for athletes and officials to familiarise themselves with the competition venues and the host region. It will also be an ideal platform for the public to participate and engage with the events and the Games. Following Snowboard Big Air, the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will welcome athletes and fans on December 16 ~ 18 to Gangneung, the ice sports venue city of PyeongChang 2018. Detailed information on each individual competition, including schedules and tickets is available at the dedicated website www.hellopyeongchang.com. "Hello PyeongChang" is the umbrella brand that covers all test events for PyeongChang 2018 held from February 2016 through 2017.