The Runner Sports

Fenway Big Air: Snowboard Finals

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Snowboarders test the ramp in preparation for a Polartec Big Air event at Fenway Park on February 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

Fenway Park, the backdrop a starlit Boston skyline, a lit up Prudential building, and a brisk 19 degrees? This isn’t your midsummer classic Fenway Park is accustomed to. It’s even a shakedown on the Frozen Fenway we’ve come to know. Stealing the field, and skyline, are the athletes of US Grand Prix Snowboarding World Cup Big Air event for the first ever Polartec Big Air Fenway.

Making the usually daunting Green Monster look like a bunny hill, a 140-foot tower has been erected on center field of the Cathedral of Boston. The event, Big Air; a one-shot give it your all huckfest. Athletes are given three runs to throw their singular best trick (or a combination of dizzying grabs, flips, and spins). A panel of six judges rates the trick on a scale of 1-100. The best and worst scores are wiped from the table, and the remaining four scores are averaged out. The rider then takes their two best runs and combines them. Their runs, metaphorically and literally, end with a slide into home plate.

The event gave a delightful preview for the unadulterated, as Big Air will officially be joining the Winter Olympic cycle in 2018 in South Korea.

Competing were an array of big names across the sport. A field of 20 women and 40 for the men were reduced to 6 and 10 for the final runs.

It would be easy to pass this event off of as a fun time, but it’s a vital and sanctioned event with points affecting their standing. Just weeks after the close of the Winter X-Games, these athletes are back on the war path and while these events come with plenty of fun, it’s all business on the hill. Not to mention, there’s a hefty $150,000 purse on the line.

A big blow to the start of the competition was the scratch of fan-favorite Sage Kotsenburg, who wiped out in practice runs, was ok, but as a precaution was removed from the finals. But as is the sport, where plenty of risks comes with each jump, even in warm-ups, the show surely went on.

The crowd was slow (as they were surely defrosting) to warm up to the festivities, but after a couple of the big jumps, and quips from the stadium announcers “this isn’t golf, put your hands together”, the crowd awoke and joined in on the action.

US Team Rookie Julia Marino, at a blissful 18 years of age, took the big stage by force. The Westport, CT native notched her second Big Air win, but earns her first Grand Prix podium. In what was suppose to be a forerunner appearance, Marino went from fill-in to front and center on the podium. In a sport dominated by the youthful, it’s still always impressive to see the less experienced come into these big events and run away with the show.

Marino, who put forth a consistent day, took her second run, and launched herself into orbit with a clean backflip indy grab, with an emphasis on the airtime. While it scored less than her first run, the entire press box let out an audible wow as she launched nearly into the troposphere. With victory almost in hand, Marino came out in her final run, and hucked easily the biggest air in the women’s event, running away with the event. I don’t necessarily know the etiquette in Big Air press boxes (not sure there typically is one at all) but there was cheering abound.

Max Parrot (winner of the X-Games gold in Big Air just a few weeks ago) was the first (and only) to bust out the triple cork, throwing a spectacular backside triple cork 1440 to secure the highest score of the evening at 96.25, it took 17 runs before we finally saw it, but it played a heavy hand in his waltzing away with the gold.

The top women started out throwing haymakers from the first bell. Marino throwing a super clean underside 360. At the end of the first round, top qualifier, and second place finisher Jenna Blasman followed suit by throwing a backside 720 but touched down her hand just a bit. Brooke Voigt rounded out the podium, with her highlight coming via a big 360 in which she stomped.

The men weren’t gun-shy to start the day either as all put forth great first runs, highlighted by Charles Guldemond’s crisp cab 1260, only to be outdone by Michael Ciccarelli’s impressive cab 1260, which far surpassed Chas’ hangtime and grab time. The first heat was capped by Parrot’s own switch cab 1260.

Paying homage to the baseball park venue, ‘Chas’ Guldemond called his ‘home run’ shot (something David Ortiz might tip his cap to) before stomping a deep backside 1080 on his final run. It wasn’t enough to move him up on the podium, but it was enough to protect his spot there. Rounding out the final spot on the men’s podium was Michael Ciccarelli, who despite a dazzling combo of tricks, including a sexy backside 1080, and a final run of a back 12 couldn’t overcome Parrot.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an event in Fenway Park without a “let’s go Red Sox” chant, which echoed throughout the stands between the break after the first runs.

There’s plenty of heartbreak in this sport, throwing your body around doesn’t ensure success, and for the likes of Michael Schaerer, who crashed on both his first two runs, sometimes you walk away empty-handed sans a little more experience. In the women’s heat, Jessika Jenson, who opened the day with a crash only to follow it up with a salvaging frontside 540 worth 82.75 points, flailed on launch in her final heat to crash and burn.

And of course, Sweet Caroline made an appearance, whether that excites you or not.

When asked about what she’d do with her big winnings, top finisher Julia Marino had this to say:

“I dunno save it for college would be the smart answer, but I don’t know.”

The icy ramp and winds up top played little factor outside of rattling nerves as 3rd place finisher Charles Guldemond put it:

“Regardless of the conditions, the best riders always show up, and we certainly did.”

 

Tune in again Friday February 12th for the Ski Big Air event!

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a child and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.
Tyler Arnold