FIVE THINGS TO WATCH - FREESKI
The 2021/22 FIS Freeski World Cup season is set to get underway on Friday at the Big Air Chur World Cup. Here’s five things to watch out for when the world’s best hit the massive scaffold jump set-up to kick off a new winter that’s full of potential…
1) Will the early-season gnar translate to first-comp insanity?
Anybody who was paying attention to the action going down on the glaciers around Europe over the last few weeks knows that there was some serious stuff happening, with mid-season-levels of gnar on display months before most resorts in the northern hemisphere will even start their lifts spinning.
How is this going to translate to the first competition of the season? We’re still not sure yet, but we’re guessing that your 1440s better be pretty special if you even want a spot in finals in the men’s competition. As for the women, you might want to think about having dubs both ways if you want top spot on a big air podium in 2021/22.
2) Anastasia Tatalina, Oliwer Magnusson, and World Champion-level pressure
Speaking of dubs both ways, there probably weren’t a lot of people who would have had their money on Anastasia Tatalina (RUS) before she stomped both left and right double corked 1260s to win big air competition at the Aspen 2021 World Championships back in March. The same also applies to Oliver Magnusson (SWE) - even though he’s been a World Cup regular since 2016/17 - as neither he nor Tatalina had ever won an elite-tier international competition.
Now the two 21-year-olds come into a huge Olympic season with the words “World Champion” attached to their names after winning big air gold in Aspen, and will have to manage all the pressure that goes along with that title. Will it be a momentum booster, or a weight on their skiing this season?
3) Matej “The Unicorn” Svancer and the sprint to Beijing
Your favourite skier’s new favourite skier, Matej Svancer before this season changed national teams from the Czech Republic (where he was born) to Austria (where he has lived for most of his life). While the 2020 Youth Olympic Games big air gold medallist and 2021 slopestyle Junior World Champion is now rocking the red and white stripes with pride, he’s in a full-on sprint over the next few months to collect enough FIS points to qualify for the Olympics, as his stats were essentially reset when he changed national representation.
Chur is Svancer’s first step on a new path, and you can expect the explosive 17-year-old to step up in a big way during competition on Friday.
4) Old dogs/new tricks?
Skiers like Henrik Harlaut (SWE), James Woods (GBR), Nick Goepper (USA), Jesper Tjader (SWE), Sarah Hoefflin (SUI) and Silvia Bertagna (ITA) have been in the upper echelon of the freeski world for well over a minute now, and remain some of the most recognised and well-loved players in the game. However, the game gets heavier - and younger - every year, and the start lists in Chur now have just as many 2000s birthdays as 1990s.
With that being said, last season Bertagna showed that progression doesn’t have to stop even as the clock clicks over into your 30s, as the 34-year-old dropped the first double cork of her competition career at the World Champs to qualify in second place before finishing sixth when all was said and done. As a bunch of legends move towards what may be their final Olympic opportunities it’s going to be interesting to see if they can follow Bertagna’s lead, pushing forward with new tricks to keep up with the hungry young ‘uns looking to snatch their crowns.
5) A city event? With spectators??
That’s right, not only are we back on the big ol’ scaffold jump for the first time in almost two years, but we’re also welcoming spectators back to a World Cup event for the first time since March of 2019.
City events are all about bringing the action to the people, and with a full-on music festival attached to the programme at the Big Air Chur you can count on a LOT of people on site and feeling the vibe come time for finals on Friday night. We’re pumped and we hope you are, too (find more info on the Covid-19 safety measures in place HERE).
Watch the Big Air Chur live: