World Cup season set to open with big air in Cardrona
Red Gerard (USA) in Thursday's training © FIS Snowboard/Buchholz

The 2019/20 FIS Snowboard World Cup season is set to once again get off to an early start this season, when the FIS Snowboard big air World Cup hits Cardrona (NZL) this weekend as part of the annual Winter Games NZ programme. While this weekend’s original schedule called for  qualifications on Saturday, August 24, and finals on Sunday the 25th, a winter storm front approaching means that that is all very likely to change, with plans already in the works to deal with the difficult scenario. 

The one window of good weather projected for this weekend appears to be for Friday, August 23, when blue skies and mellow winds are expected. With this forecast in mind, organizers and officialshave decided to move qualifications up to Friday. And while hopes are high that a fitting finals will be able to go down sometime between Saturday and the Monday weather day, there is the distinct possibility that those qualification results may have to stand in as official results should finals not be possible. 

Friday's qualifications will get underway beginning at 9:40 local time with men's runs one and two, followed by the women at 12:50. Ten men and six women will qualify for finals, the date and time of which are still to be determined.

Despite the forecast, a strong field of international riders are on hand in New Zealand and, judging by Thursday’s training, they’re enjoying their time on Cardrona’s infamously massive big air kicker. 

The USA has brought what is arguably the strongest lineup on the men’s side of things, lead by last year’s Cardrona big air World Cup winner Chris Corning. Corning put on one of the standout performances of the 2018/19 season at Cardrona last August, stomping a frontside 1440 and a quad cork backside 1800 on his 19th birthday to take the victory. While a shortened training period ahead of this season’s qualifications may hamper Corning’s ability to drop another season-opening quad, his deep bag of tricks and stomp-at-all-costs power means he may not need his standout trick for a repeat performance this season.

Along with Corning, the US squad boasts the likes of Olympic slopestyle gold medallist Red Gerard, 2018/19 slopestyle World Cup second-overall Lyon Farrell, and 2017/18 junior world championships big air silver medallist Luke Winkelmann. 

Aside from the US team, look to the likes of Clemens Millauer (AUT), Kalle Jarvilehto (FIN), Hiroaki Kunitake (JPN), Seppe Smits (BEL), and Fridtjof Tischendorf (NOR) to make things interesting this weekend, no matter what the schedule ends up being. 

Sadowski-Synnott leads women’s charge for New Zealand

Over on the women’s side, the brightest light set to shine is New Zealand’s own Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, as the 18-year-old comes into 2019/20’s first World Cup competition on the heels of a 2018/19 season that saw her claim slopestyle gold at the Utah 2019 Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, a gold and a silver at the 2019 X Games, and victory at the 2019 US Open slopestyle competition. Expect Wanaka’s favourite rider to step up big in an effort to win on home soil this weekend. 

However, Sadowski-Synnott will be in tough against the top tier of the women on hand here in Cardrona, with Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi leading the charge. Iwabuchi took the win in Cardrona last season in a powerful performance, and would end up finishing 2018/19 with the big air crystal globe in hand. That track record combined with the fact that she has been seen dropping double cork 900s this past week in Cardrona’s park makes her a strong favourite this weekend. 

Third on the list of the big three women in Cardrona is Norway’s Silje Norendal, as the two-time world championships and four time X Games medallist continued to prove herself one of the world’s best with a her first World Cup win at the Laax Open slopestyle World Cup last season. 

Behind the big three, look to the likes of Klaudia Medlova (SVK), Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), and Katie Ormerod (GBR) to make things interesting in this weekend’s competition. 

While this weekend’s weather patterns will likely keep everyone in a “hurry up and wait” status through Saturday and Sunday, the likelihood of an an exciting and quality qualification round going down on Friday should ensure the season starts with a strong result regardless. 

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