Of all the snowboard disciplines, the newest addition to the Olympic Winter Games programme is perhaps the most spectacular. In big air, competitors speed down a large hill much like a ski jump, before launching themselves skywards for around two-and-a-half seconds of trick-pulling, board-grabbing, airborne magic.
They have pulled out all the stops for PyeongChang 2018, constructing the world’s tallest big air ramp, which stands at an impressive 49 metres. The speed and height of the facility should push the already dramatic sport to new levels.
Moves such as the frontside 1080, backside 1440 and double corks have been pulled off in previous competitions. Height, distance and smoothness of landing are all taken into account by the panel of judges to determine the winner.
It’s already an established and popular event on the snowboarding scene, having featured in the FIS World Championships since 2003. In November 2016, PyeongChang hosted a successful test event at the Phoenix Snow Park, which has capacity for 18,000 spectators.
— PyeongChang 2018 (@pyeongchang2018) September 25, 2017
Among those competing were Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris, who have dominated the men’s event over recent years, and American Jamie Anderson, a Sochi 2014 gold medallist in women’s slopestyle.
Anna Gasser, the Austrian who scored the first perfect 100 in big air at the World Championships in March 2017, will be tipped for the main women’s medal
Meanwhile, Minsik Lee of the Republic of Korea, should excite the local crowd. He finished fourth in men’s halfpipe at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games and took gold at the Korean Nation Cup this year.
The IOC have added the discipline, along with several others across the Games, in an attempt to appeal to a larger youth audience – and the athletes are promising to put on a show.
“All of snowboarding is exciting to watch, but big air really lets the spectator be in the moment,” said Canada’s Spencer O’Brien about the decision.
“I think big air will be a very popular addition to the Games. Action sports have shown their popularity over the past three Olympics, and it’s why the IOC continues to add more disciplines.”
The big air finals take place on February 23 (women) and February 24 (men) at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre.