When: Thu 1st of January 1970
Where: Munich Olympic Stadium, Germany
Photos: Sami Tuoriniemi and Alex Roberts
Whoa. Now if that wasn’t the highest level of riding ever seen at a contest, then I don’t know what is…
Munich's Olympic Stadium. Stage for the madness.
Let’s face it: last year’s Air and Style was a bit of a let down. The riding, whilst good, was nothing mind-blowing and the layout, as was noted by many, left a lot to be desired, especially from a contest with such pedigree. This year, the event organisers had clearly heeded the feedback and had shifted the position of the jump so it was the full-on grandstand spectacular that is should be, the kicker itself was in far better shape and the crowd seemed bigger and in better voice than before. The result? The highest level of contest kicker riding I’ve ever seen and perhaps the raddest contest I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Travis Rice was the deserving winner in an absolutely insane final, but from start to finish the Air and Style has set the bar for big air contests this year.
David Benedek's signature double-cork frontside 12 - whilst he landed perfect in the qualifiers, he was unable to repeat it in the final.
Antti Autti was setting down frontside 12s like it was a walk in the park. Good enough to knock out Shaun White but only good enough for 3rd place.
So what was all the fuss about? Well, from the get-go in the qualifying rounds it was clear that none of the riders were holding anything back. It seems crazy that a scant few years ago a stomped Cab 9 would have won this contest as on this occasion you wouldn’t have even got through the qualifiers with that kind of trick. The head-to-head format meant that if one guys stuck a clean 10, the only response would be to try and stomp it cleaner and bigger, or go for a bigger rotation. Some guys managed to make it look effortless and progressed, and some couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace and fell by the wayside. It was no-holds-barred, and perhaps a little element of ‘spin to win’, but the ones who won spun lots of nice fun. Seriously, the big spins that were landed for the most part had solid grabs, good style and stomped landings to make them look easy.
Risto was super consistent throughout and placed 2nd - here's his cab 10 in the final.
Local boy David Benedek blew minds in the qualifiers by sticking the double-cork frontside 1260 and eliminated Nicolas Müller whose aesthetically pleasing über-corked sevens and nines couldn’t compete with the Benedek-tech. Heikki Sorsa saw off Andy Finch while rookie Torstein Horgmo spun effortless frontside 10s but was nudged out by Hampus Mosesson’s steezy back 9 shifty shifty. Eero Ettala’s switch double backflip was neutered when Travis Rice nailed the double-cork frontside 10. Antti Autti’s perfect frontside 1260s (no ballet dancing here...) sent Chris Kröll for an early bath and compatriot Risto Matilla cab 10’d past Marc-Andre Tarte who couldn’t find his landing feet. Despite looking a little rusty, Shaun White advanced past Sani Alibabic and another local boy, Christophe Schmidt, lost out to Mathieu Crepel.
Last jump of the contest and Travis Rice takes the title with a double backflip 180.
With the field whittled down, everyone was in with a chance of podiuming. Benedek again went the route of the double-cork 12 and, though he landed, he lost his edge at the bottom of the landing. It was, however, enough to see him past Heikki Sorsa, who got the crowd amped with a Palmer-esque one footer. Crepel looked to be having trouble with his switch backside 10 and if you’re having trouble with a trick it’s probably not a good time to be up against Travis Rice. Though double-cork 10 didn’t quite work out this time, a super corked 9 was enough (enough?!) to see Rice in the finals. The big surprise of the night came when Autti once again landed a perfect frontside 1260 which Shaun White countered with a Cab 12, but perhaps without such a long grab. Or perhaps landing backwards counts higher than forwards. Whatever. Frickin’ crazy snowboarding and the crowd were chanting Antti’s name like it was a football match or something. The closest call was when Risto Mattila beat Hampus by one point, and for the millionth time I was thankful that I didn’t have to judge this spectacle.
With the crowd at their loudest and amped on what had gone down before, the final kicked off. If the chill of the December air and fatigue of riding all afternoon had taken their toll on the riders, it didn’t prevent them for going hell-for-leather. Benedek looked determined to land another double-cork 12 – had he, he would surely have won in front of his home crowd – but it wasn’t to be. I’d imagine he’ll have them on lock in time for next year’s gig, so watch out world… Antti again was stomped the huuuge front 12 (grabbed to 9) perfect and followed with a switch back 7, but perhaps because he’d pretty much done them all day, they didn’t score as highly this time round. Third place. I dunno, I guess it’s always easy to criticise judging with the benefit of multiple TV replays. Risto’s Cab 10 and switch bs 5, to me, wasn’t as hot, but it was enough to put him in the lead till the final jump and till Rice stepped up after slamming on two double-cork 10s. A broken board and two slams left him in need of something special and Rice delivered. Double backflip late 180. Stomped. Bang. Kapow. Winner. Debate may rage that Autti should run Rice a little closer, but it certainly was a crazy trick that he seemed to pull from nowhere to hoist him onto the top of the podium.
That was that. Mad respect to all the riders for pulling no punches and stoking the crowd out with some full-on, next level, bionic snowboarding. Props to the organisers for sorting everything out, and props to the crowd for making noise equivalent when England once beat Germany at this famous stadium. Mwah ha ha! (evil laugh)