This big-air event could be the big lift women snowboarders needed
The further removed a person is from learning something, the more difficult it is to remember. The most recently presented information tends to stick.
In learning, that idea is referred to as the principle of recency. In Pyeongchang, the women snowboarders are calling it a second chance.
"This was the most progressive big-air event I've ever seen or been a part of," American rider Jamie Anderson said after Monday's Olympic debut of snowboard big air. "And this was just the qualifier. Finals are going to be a really good show."
Anderson qualified sixth into Friday's final; her teammates Julia Marino (9th) and Jessika Jenson (12th) will join her there.
Last Monday, Feb. 12, after canceling the women's alpine skiing giant slalom due to dangerously high winds, Olympic organizers decided to proceed with the women's snowboard slopestyle contest. As the winds picked up throughout the morning, riders were forced to scale back their runs, and few women landed a clean run at all. It was not the showcase of progression they'd hope to present to the world. But with the addition of big air to the Olympics, and because the same athletes are competing in both events, the women saw Monday as their day for redemption.
"It was unfortunate with the weather last week [for slopestyle finals] that we weren't able to showcase how hard everyone has worked in the last handful of years," said Anderson, who won her second straight Olympic gold medal in the event. "After everything settled and after reading a lot of articles and realizing they delayed alpine day after day, it made me feel really bummed and frustrated. The day of our final, they gave us an option to either run the contest or cancel it, and I think that's complete B.S. But it was good fuel on the fire because everyone was charging today."
During Sunday night's big-air practice, and after realizing Monday morning's forecast called for blue skies and light wind, the women said they prepared to compete in the most progressive qualifier of their lives. "Me and Anna [Gasser] spoke about it last night," said Norwegian rider Silje Norendal. "We were like, 'This is gonna be crazy.' We came to the conclusion that a cab 900, which would usually win a contest, would be top-10 today. After slopestyle, we were happy that we finally got to show what we do and how far we've come."
Norendal did indeed qualify in 10th place with a cab 900.
Gasser, the defending world champion and two-time defending X Games Aspen gold medalist, landed a cab double cork 1080 on her second of two attempts and qualified first. Japan's Yuka Fujimori and Reira Iwabuchi finished second and third, and 16-year-old New Zealand rider, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, landed a switch backside 900 in her second run to qualify fifth.
"You could see in all the girls how happy they were to compete today," Gasser said. "Zoi did the first switch backside 900 in competition. Everyone showed their absolute best, and that's what we all needed after slopestyle. It was a good day for women's snowboarding."