LG Snowboard FIS World Cup - First ever Big Air in Barcelona

After Stefan Gimpl (AUT) claimed Gold in the seasonís first big air in London last weekend, itís time for some more LG Snowboard FIS World Cup freestyle action. The up-coming days are fully packed with spins, flips, grabs and style.

FIS Snowboard Worldcup Saas Fee Copyright: FIS - Florian RuthAt first, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, hosts the first halfpipe World Cup contest on European soil. The competition in the Allalin Freestyle Park on November 4th and 5th will be the second of this winter.

Two days after this steeped in tradition event organised by the glacier village another first of the World Cup history is coming up as Barcelona celebrates its World Cup host debut by organising a big air. Just one week after their season’s first competition, the ramp aces are up to showcasing their skills again. The Estadio Olimpico will be the scene for this in city contest on November 7th. An international starter field including many top pros will enter both competitions.

In Saas-Fee, many top athletes are taking advantage of the snow-sure ski area in 3,300 metres above sea level for several days now to work on and improve their halfpipe runs. Besides 2006 Olympic Bronze medallists Kjersti Buaas (NOR) and Markku Koski (FIN) there are – on the women’s side – Buaas’ fellow countrywoman Linn Haug, Torah Bright (AUS), Paulina Ligocka (POL), Ursina Haller (SUI) as well as Queralt Castellet (ESP), China’s Zhifeng Sun and Sarka Pancochova (CZE) who are all in the inner circle of favourites for the podium.

In the men’s competition, the “who is who” of halfpipe snowboarding will meet. Except a very few riders who are missing, the line-up stands for some tremendous performances in the pipe: the US boys Kevin Pearce and Jack Mitrani will face strong squads from Japan and Finland. While – for example – reigning World Champion Ryoh Aono as well as Kazuhiro Kokubo and Daisuke Murakami flew in from the land of the rising sun, Peetu Piiroinen, last year’s winner Janne Korpi and Antti Autti travelled from the far North to Switzerland. In addition, Christophe Schmidt (GER), Manuel Pietropoli (ITA), Fredrik Austbo (NOR), Charles Reid (CAN) and the French musketeers Mathieu Crepel and Gary Zebrowski will drop in. The Swiss hopes are pinned on Iouri Podladtchikov who finished second in the season’s opener in New Zealand as well as on former World Champion Markus Keller and Christian Haller. In total, about 75 men and more than 40 ladies from about 25 countries will take their chance in the halfpipe of Saas-Fee.

At the World Cup debut of Barcelona, all eyes will focus on a snowboard veteran who was able to successfully compete against all the young guns and rising stars at the season’s first big air. Right at his 30th birthday, Stefan Gimpl (AUT) celebrated his career’s seventh World Cup triumph in London. And it seems that the WCS third of 2009 could have started a winning streak with it as his “Frontside 1080’s” and “Cab 900’s” were of an impressive style.

However, there are a few talents out there who might have the chance to spoil the victory for Gimpl. Norway’s riders Sondre Tiller, Gjermund Braaten, Morten Kleivdal and Ulrik Badertscher will give it another try after they had all come off second best in the London finals. The same is true for Roope Tonteri from Finland. With Gian-Luca Cavigelli (SUI) and Slovenia’s Domen Bizjak and Matevz Pristavec the second to fourth ranked riders of the London event will also start again – just like Sweden’s Christian Soerman and Kevin Backstroem. But the Spanish fans in Barcelona will cross fingers for their fellow countrymen getting ready to fight for their spot in the finals: Ruben and Isaac Verges as well as Regino Hernandez seem to have the best chances to break into the phalanx of Central and Northern European riders who dominate this discipline.

FIS World Cup in London.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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