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Gasser and Kleveland amongst Laax Open slopestyle faves
Brock Crouch (USA) © Laemmerhirt/LAAX OPEN

The FIS Snowboard Park & Pipe World Cup rolls onto Switzerland this week for one of the biggest competitions in snowboarding, as the 2022 Laax Open is set to go down with slopestyle and halfpipe World Cup action taking to the iconic resort’s slopes from January 13-15.

Men’s and women’s halfpipe semifinals, along with men’s slopestyle qualies, are scheduled for Thursday, Jan 13th in Laax, followed by women’s and men’s slopestyle semifinals on the 14th. Slopestyle and halfpipe finals are both slated to take place this Saturday, January 15th - slopestyle beginning at 13:15 CET, followed by pipe at 17:30.

This week’s action in Laax will be the final Park & Pipe World Cup tune-up before the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games get underway on February 4th, and while most nations’ Olympic rosters are pretty well established at this point, there are still some important decisions to be made, critical World Cup points to be won, and game-changing momentum to be established as we head into the all-important quadrennial that is the Olympics.

GASSER LOOKS FOR FIRST LAAX OPEN VICTORY

With the most recent Laax winner (and last weekend’s Mammoth slopestyle winner) Jamie Anderson not making the trip across the Atlantic to Switzerland, the name that looms largest on this week’s start list is Anna Gasser (AUT), as the 30-year-old is looking to turn up the heat before heading to Beijing to defend her big air gold medal from PyeongChang 2018 and try to improve upon her 15th-place slopestyle finish there.

While she has two second-place finishes and 160 points to lead the 2021/22 big air World Cup standings, this week will mark the first slopestyle competition of the season for Gasser, and you can bet she’ll be pushing hard for her first Laax podium since the 2016/17 season.

Also dropping in on her first slopestyle World Cup of the season - in fact, her first World Cup of any kind in 2021/22 - is Australia’s Tess Coady, who grabbed third place last season in Laax. Coady finished 8th in her lone competition start so far this year at the Dew Tour, and the stylish 21-year-old will want to up the ante and put herself back in the podium conversation this weekend.

Other women’s favourites include 2017 Laax winner Enni Rukijarvi (FIN), who will be looking to build off her second-place finish at Dew Tour in December, and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi, who would like to see a little more of the magic from last time she was in Switzerland, when she won the Silvaplana World Cup to finish off last season.

Riders like 2020 Laax third-place finisher Katie Ormerod (GBR), Slovakian veteran Klaudia Medlova, and up-and-comers like Annika Morgan (GER), Melissa Pepperkamp (NED), Evy Poppe (BEL) and Cool Wakishima (NZL) should also be watched this weekend.

ALL EYES ON KLEVELAND IN FIRST START OF THE SEASON

For the men we also have a clear favourite on the start list, as the inimitable Marcus Kleveland (NOR) is ready to drop in on his first competition of the 2021/22 season.

Last year Kleveland absolutely torn up the Covid-19 shortened competition calendar, winning Aspen 2021 World Championships slopestyle gold and big air bronze, X Games big air gold, and taking two wins and a third-place finish in the season’s World Cup competitions, ending the winter with the slopestyle and FIS Snowboard Park & Pipe overall crystal globes in hand.

Kleveland’s third place result last season came in Laax, but if his finish to 2020/21 is any indication, the 22-year-old is the de facto man to beat at the legendary competition this week.

Kleveland leads a strong Norwegian contingent that also includes Mons Roisland and Staale Sandbech, with Roisland coming into this Laax competition hot after a second-place finish at the Calgary slopestyle World Cup two weeks ago, and Sandbech returning to the site of his last World Cup podium, a second-place finish in Laax in 2018/19.

The U.S. slopestyle team is seeing a tooth-and-nail battle for the final spot on their slopestyle Olympic come down to the 11th-hour, with Judd Henkes, Brock Crouch, Luke Winklemann, Sean Fitzsimons and Jake Canter all on hand and looking for the win that would guarantee their spot on the team.

Leon Vockensperger (GER) scored his first career World Cup podium here in Laax last season, and has a seventh-place finish from Calgary to build off of as he looks for his second World Cup podium this weekend.

Despite being regarded as one of the most purely talented snowboarder’s in the world, Japan’s Takeru Otsuka is still looking to lock down his Japanese team spot, and if he were able to score his first World Cup podium since the 2018/19 season it would go a long way towards punching his ticket to Beijing.

Others to watch out for on the men’s side include Niek van der Velden (NED), who scored his first career World Cup podium with a runner-up in Mammoth this past weekend and has been among the most impressive riders throughout the early season, along with Tiarn Collins (NZL), who followed van der Velden up in Mammoth with a third place finish while out-steezing nearly every rider in the field.

Su Yiming of China has been one of this seasons biggest revelations, as the 17-year-old took the big air win in Steamboat in December and has looked more than comfortable among the world’s very best in all his other World Cup starts so far in 2021/22. A podium in Laax is definitely not out of the question for the exciting up-and-comer.

And finally, don’t forget last season’s Laax Open winner Niklas Mattsson, as the 29-year-old veteran looks to once again capture a little bit of magic at one of the greatest competitions in snowboarding this week.

WHERE TO WATCH

Both the 2022 Laax Open slopestyle and halfpipe World Cup finals will be streamed live on the Laax Open website HERE, as well as on Redbull TV HERE. Semifinals will also be streamed live, link TBA. Stay tuned to our social media for updates.

QUICK LINKS

 
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