Japan's Miyazawa and Iwabuchi lead the way into season-opening Cardrona big air

06 September 2018 09:40
Top qualifier Yutaro Miyazawa (JPN)
Top qualifier Yutaro Miyazawa (JPN) -
Winter Games NZ

Cardrona (NZL) - The stage is set for the first competition of the 2018/19 FIS Snowboard World Cup season, after a heavy-hitting qualification round on Thursday locked in the top athletes for what promises to be an incredible season opener at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ big air World Cup in Cardrona (NZL).

Cardrona has been teeming with a collection of some of the best snowboarders on the planet for weeks as riders look to get a jump on the winter with some laps below the equator, and with all that time on snow already logged, much of the field appeared to be in mid-season form in Thursday’s qualifications. 

The first heat of qualifiers started out with a bang as first-to-drop Leon Vockensperger (GER0, competing in just his third World Cup, stomped a backside triple corked 1440 to set the tone for the day to come and punch his ticket to Saturday’s finals. 

Top spot in heat one would go to PyeongChang 2018 Olympic big air silver medalist Kyle Mack, who’s own version of the backside triple 1440 featured a stalled-out Japan grab in his signature style that would be just enough to keep him ahead of Japan’s Takeru Otsuka.




Otsuka, fresh off winning the junior big air world championship gold medal on the very same Cardrona jump less than two weeks earlier, would be one of four Japanese athletes to make their way to the 10-man final, including heat two top-qualifier Yutaro Miyazawa. 

Competing in just his second career World Cup competition, Miyazawa stomped a triple corked 1620 mute on his second hit that was as close to perfect as the judges dared score it on Thursday, earning him a 95.60 and making him the de facto one to watch in Saturday’s best-two-of-three jump finals. 

The raw power of the Japanese team proved itself no less impressive in Thursday afternoon’s ladies’ qualification round, where Reira Iwabuchi and Miyabi Onitsuka went one-two to lead the way into the six-rider finals. 

Both Iwabuchi and Onitsuka stomped clean backside 720 mutes on the huge Cardrona big air jump, with Iwabuchi’s better amplitude and smoother execution giving her 94.00 points and a slight edge over her Onitsuka’s 92.40. 



Just 16 years old, Iwabuchi has podiums in two of her four career World Cup starts - including a win at her last big competition at Copper Mountain last season. Her teammate Onitsuka, meanwhile, is still chasing her first career victory after earning three runner-up podiums last season.

With all other ladies’ finalist earning scores below the 80.00 point mark, it certainly looks like the battle for first will be between the Japanese teammates this weekend. 

If conditions are good, the estimated start time for Saturday’s finals is 12:00 local time, where the top 10 men and top 6 ladies will square off to get the 2018/19 World Cup season off to a strong early start, while closing down the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ in memorable fashion.