Cai and Aono take halfpipe World Cup title in Sapporo
Xuetong Cai (CHN) and Ryo Aono (JPN) have been crowned halfpipe World Cup title winners of the 2015-16 season winning this winter's last halfpipe contest which took place in Sapporo, Japan – seven years after the halfpipe World Cup circuit had stopped by in the land of the rising sun last time (Gujo-Gifu, January 2009).
Both riders from Asia came out successful of the Sapporo finals earning their respective fourth and third small Crystal Globe in an impressive way whilst facing tough weather conditions which had forced Event Official to bring the qualifiers forward by one day earlier this week.
Cai, the reigning world champion who had been the best female halfpipe rider back in 2010, 2011 and 2012 already, headed so far leading title defender Kelly Clark (USA) off by securing her career's eighth with 91.50 for her run which consisted of a backside 540 to frontside 540, backside air and back-to-back 720s.
“I'm very happy to finish first and to win my fourth Crystal Globe. I felt well today, the weather conditions didn't affect my riding at all. I had enough speed to perform my tricks. I enjoyed Japan,” she said also knowing that a third rank finish would have been enough for her to claim the title.
Cai's teammate Jiayu Liu (CHN, 87.00) and 2015 world champs bronze medallist Clemence Grimal (FRA, 84.00) finished in second and third position, respectively.
Aono with four top-5 results in four events
On the men's side of things, 2007 and 2009 Crystal Globe winner Aono had already had the title under his belt going into the last halfpipe competition of this winter looking back on a strong season with a fifth place finish in Cardrona, New Zealand and a first and second rank at the Grand Prix events in Mammoth Mountain, CA and Park City, UT before.
But pushed by the home field advantage, the 2009 world champion brought home his third consecutive podium result with a frontside 1440 to cab double cork 1080, frontside 900 and a backside 1260 to finish things off.
Aono clinched his career's twelfth in a tight and exciting men's final with 94.25 edging off Markus Malin (FIN, 93.75) and teammate Raibu Katayama (JPN, 92.00) to the second and third rank, respectively.
“I'm very proud of my season having had very good results at every World Cup stop,” he said.
“I was able to perform the way that I wanted today, even though I wasn't going as big as I wanted. That's for sure something for the future: to be even more constant on the amplitude and to win more competitions.”
Second rank finisher Markus Malin was beaten by the mere of .50 after landing a frontside double cork 1080 to cab double cork 1080, frontside 900, backside 1080 and a switch michalchuck to finish things off.
Although the Finnish ripper came close to his career's second, he was still satisfied with the result: I feel pretty good. I pulled off the run I had in my mind, so I'm pretty happy.”
New World Cup title winners Aono as well as Cai are now also leading the overall standings of the snowboard freestyle World Cup tour but have to watch the slopestyle riders having two more chances to get some points this winter.
The penultimate slopestyle competition will take place in Korea from February 19th till 21st, 2016, when the Olympic slopestyle test event will be staged in PyeongChang.