Asia's teenage flyers send strong big air signals

Japan's two-time X Games champion Reira Iwabuchi, 19, was dominant on the women's side of the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air stop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado while Chinese teenager Su Yiming signalled Olympic intentions with a stunning performance in the men's.

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

With the two big air stops of the 2021/22 Snowboard World Cup tour now concluded, riders from Japan and 2022 Winter Olympic hosts the People’s Republic of China laid down strong markers with the Beijing 2022 Games just under 60 days away.

Japan's 19-year-old sensation and two-time Winter X Games podium finisher Reira Iwabuchi won the women’s section of the second and final FIS Snowboard World Cup big air competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on Saturday. And that was only a little over a month after her 17-year-old teammate Kokomo Murase won the previous event, in the Swiss venue of Chur, with an outrageous winning performance that had the crowd on its feet for the teenager who first burst onto the scene at the 2018 X Games in Norway.

“I'm just so happy to win,” said Murase after her victory in late October in Swistzerland, adding, with an obvous eye to the upcoming Winter Games: “I'm also so excited to continue [in the winter season] and hoping to do my best with the Olympics [Beijing 2022] coming up.”

Unfortunately for Murase, she fell on her third run in Steamboat on Saturday (4 December) after failing to gain enough momentum off the lip of the jump. As a result, she missed out on her second podium place this year and had to be content to finish well off the pace in seventh.

Her teammate Iwabuchi took full advantage to make the upcoming women's big air contest in Beijing in February look like a decent bet to go Japan’s way -- if these two big world cup results are anything to go by.

In another potentially resounding message sent on Saturday in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Iwabuchi not only won out by a full 38.5 points -- but the athlete who finished all that way off in second place was none other that 30-year-old veteran Austria Anna Gasser, winner of the 2018 gold medal in the big air snowboard event in PyeongChang.

It wasn’t just on the women’s side at the Steamboat big air event that Asia’s snowboarding medal intentions were trumpeted. On the men’s side, the People’s Republic of China's, Su Yiming, just 17 years of age, won his first major world cup event (and a first-ever big air world cup gold for a Chinese rider) with a stunning performance that saw him score an astonishing 91.00 in his third run -- sealing the best-trick honours on the day.

His 155.25 overall score was 15.75 points ahead of closest chaser Clemens Millauer of Austria.

With no more big air World Cup events remaining ahead of the Beijing 2022 snowboard competition between 5 and 15 February at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou and Big Air Shougang, all that remains is trick-refining, tweaking and day-to-day preperations for the world’s top riders as they hunt precious medals in what will be big air snowboarding's second go-around on the Olympic stage.

SU YIMING

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