[photos: Alex Roberts and Pat Vermeulen]
Things weren’t looking promising as we headed up the hill this morning; after the long awaited snowfall the world had at last turned white but there was some heavy fog lingering that had the potential to cause problems to the event schedule.
Happily though, Laax’s pipe managed for the most part to sit in a pocket of clarity and for the most part the fog stayed away. The 16 whippersnappers who’d qualified for the final were fine ambassadors for snowboarding’s future and put on a frickin’ sick show with back to back nines, back to back sevens, huge straight airs and heaps of style spraying out the pipe with startling regularity. I must admit, I was anticipating some of the smaller riders to struggle getting much height but the likes of the diminutive Dutch Dimi de Jong were still getting a good couple of metres out and the bigger kids were absolutely fucking flying. The first kid we saw was Japan’s Eisuke Sugiara who – in true Japanese style – seized the moment to blow minds by going bigger than everyone else with a massive grin on his face. Seriously, this 15 year old must have gone 3 – 4 metres on his first hit and followed it up with a McTwist that wasn’t much lower. Other standouts were Manuel Pietropoli (whose first hit frontside 9s were way overhead and maintained his speed to pull a couple of good sized straight airs and back to back sevens), Petja Piirionen, Sacha Gattiker, Luka Jeromel and Philipp Eglof.
But, as we suspected from watching yesterday’s qualifiers, France’s Olivier Gittler maintained his good run of form to seal the win. The kid’s pipe riding is something to behold and displays a mature consistency that belies his 16 years, maintaining his amplitude a good way down and linking, amongst other things, the big hitters that are back to back nines (if you want to know his full run, it went something like this: big slob, bs 9, fs 9, tweaked McTwist, fs 7). Bright things are predicted for this not-so mini dude in the future and we’ll certainly be keeping our beady little eye on him.
As every year, the pool of young talent waiting to burst into snowboarding’s collective consciousness is seemingly bottomless, with at least the top three kids easily capable of holding their own in tomorrow’s senior contest, and it won’t be long before the likes of Gittler will be making that step up from rookie to pro look as easy as taking candy from a baby.
- 1 – Ben Watts USA
- 2 – Jan Scherrer SUI
- 3 – Dimi de Jong NED
- 1 – Olivier Gittler FRA
- 2 – Eisuke Sugiura JAP
- 3 – Maniel Pietropoli ITA
Seniors' pipe training tomorrow. And hopefully some sly powder runs too. Will keep you posted.