The Best And Worst Things About Snowboarding At The 2018 Winter Olympics

The Games got some things right, and others spectacularly wrong

Yuka Fujimori and Clemens Millauer having very different Olympic experiences. Photos: Sam Mellish

With the conclusion of the men’s Big Air final on Saturday, that was all she wrote for Pyeongchang 2018. We’ve now got six gold medallists in the freestyle events – some expected, others plucked from under the noses of the favourites. There was no shortage of drama; even if you hate the Olympics, we bet you watched at least some of it.

“the women’s big air had everything: pressure, progression, and some narrative gems”

As with all events of its type, what people remember most about the Games are the individual moments – and not all of them positive ones. For all the strong riding on display (and there was plenty of that) there were also a few things we – and everyone involved, presumably – would rather forget.

In no particular order, let’s start with six of the best…

1. Kyle Mack’s Grabs

Bloody good effort, Kyle Mack-ula

The American’s japan and Bloody Dracula grabs in the Big Air final stood out in a sea of mute grabs. The next closest thing to his boat-pushing was Billy Morgan’s double grab, so we were delighted to see both of those guys going home with a medal.

Hopefully more riders will be encouraged to mix it up a bit more on the road to Beijing 2022?

2. Pat Burgener’s drop-in

Pat Burgener getting psyched to drop, a positive force for good on the course and a well-deserved fifth-place finish

The stakes couldn’t have been higher in the men’s pipe final, but Switzerland’s Pat Burgener channeled the likes of Heikki Sorsa in 2002 and Mathieu Crepel in 2010 to bring a bit of levity to the pipe.

He may not have shaved a Mohawk or drawn on a fake moustache, but his air-guitar routine at the drop-in helped to puncture the tension and put a smile on our faces.

3. Peetu Piiroinen

Peetu-D2 styleing one out in the pipe, between appearances in slopestyle and Big Air. Photo: Sam Mellish

The veteran contest killer from Finland already has an Olympic medal – a silver for halfpipe in 2010 – and despite being the right side of 30 is still considered to be past his prime.

That being said, he qualified for both pipe and slopestyle/Big Air – the only rider, male or female, to do so – in what we’re hoping won’t be his last Olympics. He even made the grade for the halfpipe finals, proving he can still mix it with the best in the world.

4. Men’s Halfpipe Final

Ayumu Hirano’s first hit. Ouch. Photo: Sam Mellish

Speaking of the men’s pipe final, this was undoubtedly a highlight of the Games. For sheer spectacle, what can rival the sight of three insanely talented snowboarders one-upping each other over three runs? The only thing that came close was…

5. Women’s Big Air Final

Julia Marino was among those bossing the Big Air. Photo: Sam Mellish

Not only was this just what women’s snowboarding needed after the disappointment of the slopestyle and the foregone conclusion of the pipe, it proved to be far better than the equivalent men’s event.

This event had everything: pressure, progression, and some narrative gems. There was a worthy gold for the rider who’s arguably done the most in recent years to haul the discipline forward, a silver for the longtime rival who’s pushed her all the way, and a bronze for a promising young Kiwi that’s destined for great things.

6. Tor Bergrem’s Switch back 5

*bites fist*


So that’s it for the best – but what about the worst moments? We can think of at least five, starting with what was undoubtedly the most disappointing event of the Games.

1. Women’s slopestyle

Thar she blows

We’ll leave it to those on the ground to decide whether or not it should have gone ahead – and on that front, opinion remains divided.

While no competition is promised optimum conditions (and contingency plans will inherently be in short supply during multi-sport organisational clusterfucks like the Games), it was nevertheless a crying shame to see the fastest-progressing event in competitive snowboarding reduced to a crash reel in most mainstream press coverage. Thank God for the Big Air.

2. Halfpipe amplitude sensors

WHAT ARE THOOOOSE. Photo: Sam Mellish

Pity the poor pipe riders who risk life and limb in the stunt ditch, only to then be forced to adorn some weird cycle-clip-esque sensors on both legs. Why even bother? The layman isn’t going to be keeping a record of each rider’s average height, and the judges shouldn’t need them in the first place.

3. Boot grabs

Toujours les chaussures: France’s Sophie Rodriguez caught in the act in Pyeongchang. Photo: Sam Mellish

They’re still happening, and they’re still shit. The same goes for tapped grabs and tickles. Are the judges being as harsh as they should be? Never mind sensors on the riders’ legs – whack some on their gloves if that’s what it takes!

4. The halfpipe cameras

That spinning speck that you can barely make out against the trees? That’s Jake Pates.

The clowns responsible for documenting the stunt ditch missed more shots than Stevie Wonder at the firing range. That cable cam was an affront to the sport, giving those watching at home very little perspective on just how insanely high the riders were getting out of the walls. Guy-in-the-sky replays aren’t much cop either.

5. Combining Big Air and Slopestyle qualification

Behold the Medium-Sized Air. Photo: Sam Mellish

This just seems like laziness on the part of the IOC, and in our more skeptical moments we wonder if the relatively small size of the Big Air jump was a conscious decision by the organisers, who knew they’d need to accommodate a lot of slopestyle specialists who don’t usually hit humungous Big Air jumps in competition. Would it really have been so hard to separate them?

What were your best and worst moments from Pyeongchang 2018? Let us know in the comments below.


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