Next February, four sports will feature events that will be brand new to the Olympic Winter Games. In a series of installments, Olympic.ca will give you the low down on these new events and what they might mean for Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018.
After introducing long track’s newest event mass start, it’s time to get familiar with big air, one of Canada strongest snowboard events this season.
As in Sochi, the Olympic snowboard competition will include five events per gender, but in PyeongChang, the thrilling big air has replaced the parallel slalom. This gives freestyle snowboarders, who also compete in slopestyle, a double shot at an Olympic podium.
So, what is big air?
Related: Big Air 101 with Spencer O’Brien
The name pretty much speaks for itself. Snowboarders get big air after taking off from a long ramp. In the air, they attempt to attain maximum height and distance before performing a single trick jump and securing a clean landing.
Just like in halfpipe and slopestyle, big air tricks are evaluated by a panel of judges for their difficulty, style and execution.
How does the competition work?
It begins with a qualification round, narrowing the field to the top 12 competitors. In the final, each rider takes three runs and their two highest scoring runs are added together to determine the overall results.
History of big air
Although the first FIS Snowboard World Championships were held in 1996, big air was not included until 2003. Canada’s Darcy Sharpe won silver in 2015. But the biggest showcases for big air have been at pro tour events, such as the X Games, where it’s been included off and on since the late 1990s, but consistently since 2008. Because ramps can be constructed just about anywhere, big air events can bring snowboard to cities, such as Boston where the legendary Fenway Park hosted an event in 2016.
Canada at PyeongChang 2018
Each of the big air events will feature 30 competitors. Canada can enter a maximum of four snowboarders of each gender, who will also compete in slopestyle. The year-and-a-half qualification period will end on January 21, 2018. Athletes will be selected based on their results from specific competitions, including the World Cup that served as the Olympic test event at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre and the 2017 X Games in Aspen and Oslo.
Among Canada’s most notable big air snowboarders are Mark McMorris, Max Parrot, Sébastien Toutant and Spencer O’Brien. McMorris won X Games gold in 2012 and 2015 and was the runner-up in 2013 and 2016. Parrot was X Games champion in 2014, 2016 and 2017.