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Murase makes history with women's NBD while Kunitake earns career first

Dec 16, 2023·Snowboard Park & Pipe
Mari Fukada (JPN), Kokomo Murase (JPN) and Mia Brookes (GBR) © Buchholz/FIS Snowboard

The final big air World Cup of the 2023/24 season went down on Friday at the Copper Mountain Visa Big Air, and it was, quite simply, one of the most mind-blowing FIS Snowboard competitions of all time, with Japan’s Hiroaki Kunitake earning his first career World Cup win for the men, and his compatriot Kokomo Murase making history by stomping two never-been-done-in-competition tricks, back-to-back, on her way to earning the highest big air World Cup score of all time and the women’s victory.


Murase began her day at Copper by stomping the switch frontside triple cork 1260 Indy that earned her top spot in Wednesday’s qualifications, earning herself a score of 97.25 and serving early notice that the Visa Big Air would be hers to lose.

It was in run two that the 19-year-old absolutely blew the roof off of the competition, as she dropped in, lined up for a backside spin, and almost casually threw down a trick that no woman has ever before landed (at least to public knowledge) - a backside triple cork 1440 Weddle grab.

With three perfectly dipped corks, a grab through the majority of the rotation, and a landing so stomped it could have been a straight air that came before it, Murase would write her name once again in the annals of snowboard history, earning an unheard-of score of 99.75, for a combined total of 197.00 and perhaps the most emphatic victory in FIS Snowboard big air World Cup history.

However, she wasn’t done there.

On her third and final run, a victory lap, Murase dropped in and proceeded to make it back-to-back never-been-done-in-competition tricks, as she stepped up to a switch frontside triple cork 1440 Indy, making it three landed triple corks in one competition. Which is, of course, yet another never-been-done in women’s snowboarding.

A little scrub in the landing of Murase’s final run meant that it would actually score lower than the first-run triple 1260, but had that tiny mistake not been there we likely would have been looking at another 99.00+ point score.

Any way you slice it, what Murase did on Friday at Copper Mountain was astonishing, and with her performance a whole new frontier was opened for women’s snowboarding.

Murase’s English isn’t quite as strong as her riding, but in a quiet moment after the dust had settled and awards given out, she was asked about how it feels to make snowboard history, and her two-word answer was enough - “Just great.”

Second place for the women would be Murase’s Japan Snowboard teammate Mari Fukada, who put down a backside 1260 melon on run two, and then a frontside 1080 melon on run three to earn herself a combined score of 174.00 and the second podium of her World Cup career at the same location she earned her first last season.

Rounding out the podium in third place and walking away from Copper as the biggest winner of the big air World Cup season was Great Britain’s Mia Brookes. Putting down a switch frontside 1080 melon on run one and a backside 1080 Indy on run two, Brookes would earn a total score of 155.75 for her third podium out of the season’s four big air World Cups.

More importantly than that, however, was that the 16-year-old was able to secure the 2023/24 FIS Snowboard big air crystal globe, becoming the first British rider to earn that particular trophy.

“I’m really happy to have won the big air crystal globe,” Brookes said following the competition, “I’ve been planning on this achievement since the start of the tour this year, and to finish it off with a podium is so special. Now I’m excited for slopestyle season to start soon after Christmas!”


It wasn’t just Murase making history on Friday at Copper, as her teammate Hiroaki Kunitake got in on the action with a little never-been-done-in-World-Cup-competition trick-throwing of his own.

Kunitake began his finals with a switch frontside 1800 weddle to tail grab that would earn him a very respectable score of 86.50.

It was in run two when the 21-year-old took things to the stratosphere, throwing down a frontside quad cork 1800 Weddle of the variety that his compatriot Takeru Otsuka landed in X Games competition a few years ago, but which we’ve never seen in a World Cup event. Riding out clean to a score of 94.75 for the trick and a combined total of 181.25, Kunitake would claim his first career World Cup victory in his 40th start.

Following up Kunitake in second place and also chalking up a career milestone was Sam Vermaat of the Netherlands, who put down his unique version of a frontside 1800 tail grab on run one, followed by a cab triple cork 1620 slob air on run two for a total score of 169.50 and his first career World Cup podium.

Rounding out the podium just .25 points back in third place and earning his second-straight World Cup top-3 was the USA’s own Red Gerard.

While Gerard put down cleanly a switch backside 1620 Weddle in run one, followed by a backside 1800 melon grab in run two, he found himself sitting .50 back of Switzerland’s Nicolas Huber with just one run to go.

Knowing he just needed to squeeze an extra point out of one of the tricks he had already landed, Gerard returned to the switch backside 1620 for his third and final run, putting it down to perfection, earning the extra point, and finishing with a score of 169.25 for the host nation’s lone podium of the day.

The men’s big air crystal globe also went to Japan, as 19-year-old Kira Kimura would walk away with the trophy despite not making it through to Friday’s finals. Luckily for Kimura, both his closest competitors on the World Cup rankings, Su Yiming (CHN) and his Japanese teammate Taiga Hasegawa, also failed to qualify for the showdown.

While another Japanese ripper, Ryoma Kimata, could have caught Kimura with a second-place result or better, he was unable to do so, and Kimata would claim the globe.

FIS Snowboard World Cup ction at Copper Mountain continues on Saturday with halfpipe finals at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix.


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