PyeongChang 2018 OWG preview: big air
19 February 2018 will mark an historic date for snowboarding as big air will celebrate it's Olympic debut at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. And the latest snowboard add-on to the Olympic programme is set to deliver a superb show.
Not only as the official World Cup test event last year provided a high level competition for both, women and men, with riders throwing down what has been the state of the art trick-wise for quite a while now.
But also as the athletes have already left a first mark in their slopestyle jump lines of what to expect during the big air competitions.
The deep and strong field won't be battle for the first ever Olympic big air title in the Bokwang Phoenix Park but in the Alpsenia Ski Jumping Centre where a massive big air ramp has been constructed right opposite to the Normal and Large Hill
While the venue has changed, the favourites for a medal are still the same as they have been for the slopestyle.
However, it's Anna Gasser from Austria who might feel the biggest pressure on her shoulder after a disappointing slopestyle result which was mainly owed to the odd weather situation.
The 26-year-old enters the event as reigning World Champion and has won six of the seven big air World Cups she has competed so far with a second rank in Moscow last year being her worst result.
But the first woman to land a backside double cork 1080 in a contest (2017 World Championships Sierra Nevada) has some strong competition to face.
World Championships Silver and Bronze medallists Enni Rukajarvi (FIN) and Silje Norendal (NOR) are also a podium threat with the latter one entering the contest seething with anger after missing out the slopestyle podium last weekend as fourth.
In addition, Japan's women have also developed well with Miyabi Onitsuka sitting in second of the World Cup ranking and teenage sensation Reira Iwabuchi having claimed victory in the final World Cup prior to the Olympic Winter Games.
While Carla Somaini (SUI), the third of three girls with wins on the circuit under her belt, might only have an outside chance to make it in the top-3, US riders Julia Marino and Jamie Anderson are more likely to have the right trick arsenal in store to give Gasser some hard times.
In the men's event, the focus will be on Canada's Max Parrot and Mark McMorris as the respective PyeongChang 2018 slopestyle Silver and Bronze medallists took 2-1 in the official test event last season.
Last year's third in Alpensia, Ryan Stassel (USA), is also back to business coming back from an injury while Norway's Vikings Stale Sandbech, no less than the discipline's reigning World Champion and Marcus Kleveland, the rider on tour who makes the spin to win attitude look as smooth and stylish as no one else out there, are also keen for some redemption missing out the Olympic slopestyle podium a few days ago.
In addition, Canada's Sebastien Toutant as well as Seppe Smits and Sebbe de Buck from Belgium, Finland's powerhouse Roope Tonteri along with 2018 Olympic slopestyle Gold medallist Redmond Gerard are also able to have say in the medal decision in big air's Olympic debut.
The qualifiers for women will kick off the action on 19 February, with the men battling for the twelve final spots on 21 February.
Ladies' finals are slated for 23 February and the men's finals for 24 February.