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Japanese trio steals snowboard big air show

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily News
X Games athlete Anna Gasser competes in the Women’s Snowboard Big Air Final on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (Nate Krause/Special to The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

On a night where snowboarding fans at Buttermilk Ski Area watched with bated breath to see if Austrian star Anna Gasser would attempt a three-inversion triple cork trick, they didn’t have to wait long for excitement in the X Games Aspen women’s snowboard big air final.

Before Gasser even attempted — and nearly landed — the unprecedented triple cork on her first run Thursday, a trio snowboarders set the stage for one thrilling big air jump after another. In the end, the show was stolen by a collection of Japanese riders, including eventual champion Miyabi Onitsuka.

Twenty-five minutes before Onitsuka was crowned, on the first run down the 300-foot run-in to the 80-foot big air jump, Slovakian veteran Klaudia Medlova set the stage for one progressive trick after another by landing a double backside rodeo. The 21-year-old Onitsuka then landed a frontside 1080 to get into the conversation. Over her next two runs, Onitsuka followed the frontside 1080 with a backside 1080 and a huge backside 1260 to take the commanding lead in the jam format, where judges re-ranked snowboarders after each jump, based on “overall impression.”

Before Gasser could even drop in, Japanese 18-year-old Reira Iwabuchi landed a backside double-cork 1080 to put her in position for her eventual bronze medal.

Then Gasser attempted her triple cork for the first time, the closest she came all night. Gasser continued to try the trick, failing to get enough speed to get it around on her second and third runs before going for it again on her fourth run.

On that fourth run, Gasser had two people at the top of the ramp whip her onto the run-in for more momentum. But the failure to land the triple cork was the scariest miss yet, as the front of her board caught the landing and she hit her head hard on the landing.

After a couple of minutes being assessed by X Games medical, Gasser rode off OK.

As for the rest of the competition, Onitsuka followed up that frontside 1080 with a backside 1080 and then a soaring backside 1260. The 1260 was actually landed twice Thursday night after only being landed once before in women’s competition. The other rider to land it was eventual silver medalist Japanese teen phenom Kokomo Murase, who at 15 is the youngest snowboarder in any X Games competition this year.

After the competition where the trio of Japanese riders took home gold, silver and bronze, Onitsuka, in her best English, summed up the night.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Landing my backside double-cork 12 to take gold. I was so stoked.”


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