Cardrona, New Zealand (7 September 2018) – The finals of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ FIS Freeski World Cup Big Air were held in picture perfect conditions today at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Canada’s Elena Gaskell and Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli (SUI) claimed the gold medals. New Zealand’s Finn Bilous earned his first World Cup medal, finishing in third place in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
The FIS Freeski World Cup Big Air at Winter Games NZ is the first event on the 2019 World Cup calendar; it is also sanctioned as an AFP Platinum level event. The 10 men and five women made the most of the blue skies and calm conditions and pushed their skiing to the limit.
Gaskell landed a switch cork 1260 with a strong grab and solid landing on her second run of three, boosting her in to first place with a score of 93.00. Her fellow competitors congratulated her on throwing such a technical trick on the huge 75-foot jump.
“She’s changing our sport!” said supportive team mate Yuki Tsubota who finished in the bronze medal position with a left 900 tail grab and right 540 mute grab.
“I’m pretty stoked!” agreed Gaskell. “My training was bad so I was nervous coming in. My first jump, I kept it pretty simple just doing a 720. Then my second jump I did one of my harder tricks, the switch 12 and landed so I was pretty stoked. It’s a good way to start the season off.”
Caroline Claire of the USA claimed the silver medal with a switch 900 octo grab and a left 720 tailgrab.
The gold medal result in the men’s competition was decided on the final run of three with each competitor’s top two scores combined to decide final rankings. Ragettli crashed on the triple 16 on his first run but then pulled through with a score of 91.00 for his triple 16 truckdriver on his second attempt, with everything to play for on run three. A stomped switch triple 1440 truckdriver and another score of 91.00 put him to the top of the leaderboard.
“It feels amazing, what a start to the new season,” said Ragettli. “My day started not that well, I missed my first jump, didn’t land it, but then put the second and third run down perfectly and won the event, I’m super stoked.”
Despite topping the qualifying rounds earlier in the week, Canada’s Evan McEachran wasn’t counting on landing in the medals in today’s World Cup final.
“I’m not much of a Big Air skier so I kind of surprised myself today,” said McEachran who finished in the silver medal spot, putting down a switch double 1800 tailgrab, backed up with a right triple 1660 safety grab.
It has been a week for new experiences for NZ skier Finn Bilous who landed a new trick (a switch triple rodeo 1440) in qualifying rounds yesterday (Thursday) which put him through to finals in second place, and then decided to try out another brand-new trick (forwards triple cork 1440) in practice ahead of today’s finals.
Bilous explains: “We got up here, conditions were perfect and training went off. Everyone was doing crazy tricks from the get-go so you knew it was going to be a gnarly contest, it definitely lived up to those expectations. I landed a new trick both yesterday and today and those were the tricks that just got me on the podium.”
Bilous’ first jump, the switch triple rodeo 1440, was the single highest scoring tick of the day (93.6) and had him in first place at the end of run one. He went a bit too big with the forwards triple cork 1440 on run two and had to squat down on landing but cleaned it up for run three to finish in third place, claiming his first world cup medal, just 0.2 points behind silver medallist McEachran.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Bilous. “I’m super stoked just to land the jumps, and to end up on the podium in front of the home crowd is very rewarding.”