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Olympic preview: Women's snowboard big air

The slopestyle final in PyeongChang was supposed to be a marquee showcase of all the progression that's happened in ...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 12:59 AM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 12:59 AM

The slopestyle final in PyeongChang was supposed to be a marquee showcase of all the progression that's happened in women's snowboarding over the last few years.

Instead, what the riders got was a crash-filled affair affected by heavy gusts of wind. The riders that managed to get onto the podium had to dial back their tricks just to land a full run.

Afterward, riders spoke of "second chances" and "redemption." It appears that both of those things are on the way in today's big air final.

It was already assumed that riders would need double corks, 1080s or at least 900s to earn a medal in the big air final. But those tricks were coming out in the qualifying round just a few days ago.

Zoi Sadowski-Synnot of New Zealand called it "the heaviest comp women's big air has ever had" and it's hard to disagree.

Things should only get crazier in the final.

Anna Gasser of Austria is the favorite for gold. She's very consistent with her tricks and has landed multiple variations of the double cork 1080, which is currently considered the top trick in women's big air.

In the final (unlike the qualifying round), riders need to land two different tricks — not just their one biggest trick. Gasser already showed her cab double cork 1080 in the qualifying round, which earned her the highest score, but she's also capable of landing a backside double cork 1080. That gives her a pair of strong tricks.

"I think here we're going to see one of the first big air [contests] where...a girl has to do different doubles [to win]," Gasser predicted after the qualifying round.

The 12 riders who reached the final will each have three attempts at a trick. Their overall point total is based off their two best scores, but those scores must come from two different tricks. (If a rider repeats a trick, the lower score will be ignored.)

At their most basic level, "doubles" typically fall into one of three different categories: double cork 1080s, double cork 900s and double underflips. The double cork 1080 is the most difficult of the group. (Each double cork has its own variations based on which direction the rider spins, but that's a discussion for a different day.)

Among the athletes who could mount a challenge to Gasser are U.S. riders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino.

Anderson, the now two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboard slopestyle, landed a cab double cork 900 in the qualifying round but could try to step that up to a double cork 1080. If she were to win big air, Anderson would become the first woman to earn three gold medals in snowboarding. (Shaun White became the first man to do so earlier in these Olympics.)

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut, has been one of the most progressive women in the sport over the last few seasons. She's one of the athletes who helped make doubles a competition standard in this event.

Another rider to watch is Canada's Laurie Blouin, who won a silver medal in the PyeongChang slopestyle event and trains with Marino. There's also a talented pair of 16-year-olds, New Zealand's Zoi Sadowski-Synnot and Japan's Reira Iwabuchi, who could make some noise.

The women's big air final starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and is streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.

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