[CHECK THE BILLABONG AIR&STYLE 2012 VIDEOS WHEN YOU'RE DONE HERE]
Despite a stellar showing from rookies and big name pros alike on the Baltic, bulletproof Bergisel scaffold wedge, Peetu Piiroinen's phenomenal consistency and ridiculously supersized hits saw him deservedly earn another Air&Style title last night. Check our Photo Ed's Gallery of bang bangs first, and our report of how it went down which will follow below shortly...
The Friday night prior to the main event, amidst the Burn Rail Jam in downtown Innsbruck, the riders draw went down to decide who'd face off against who in the first round. This kind of head-to-head format has its advantages and disadvantages but despite the fact that there's the potential for two big guns to meet early doors, its ease of understanding for the masses makes it an obvious choice for such a stadium event. When the names had come out of the tombola, this is how the first round panned out:
Seb Toutant v 4th Place Qualifier
Ståle Sandbech v 3rd Place Qualifier
Werni Stock v 2nd Place Qualifier
Nils Arvidsson v 1st Place Qualifier
Seppe Smits v Yuki Kadono
Ulrik Badertscher v Eero Ettala
Eric Willett v Roope Tonteri
Ethan Morgan v Peetu Piiroinen
The qualifiers kicked off on Saturday arvo with the dudes battling it out for the 4 spots that would get them into the main event and a chance to prolong their session on what Marko Grilc described as "the best the kicker's ever been here." Although it was bitterly cold and the landing must have resembled an ice rink, the guys chucked themselves for all their worth with Pat Burgener's textbook switch backside 10 grabbed almost to the landing putting him through first, ahead of Niklas Matsson's smooth front 10 dub, Torgeir Bergrem's rapid Cab 12 and Petja Piiroinen's properly doubled back 10.
Onto the main event and it was shaping nicely. The rookies from the qualis had their work cut out for them, certainly, but a couple of them defied expectations and dispatched their invited counterparts: Burgener's flawless switch back 10 made short work of Nils Arvidsson's iffy landings while Matsson's clean landings made short work of Werni Stock's malfunctioning stomping legs.
There were no other major surprises in round 1 as veteran competitors Seb Toutant, Seppe Smits, Eric Willett and Peetu Piiroinen sent their invited opponents for early baths, the one eyebrow that was raised was when Ulrik Badertscher easily hopped over Eero Ettala's challenge by putting down a back 12 that Ettala could not match.
Much like the Champions League, it's when the field gets narrower that things really get interesting and you can see who's got the proper minerals. The draw had Toutant v Sandbech, Burgener v Smits, Matsson v Badertscher and Willett v Piiroinen in the Semi-off. Interesting times.
Toots has the front 10 dub pretty much on lock so Ståle needed to be on top of his game to progress, but it seemed he was having some issues as he'd let go the grab fairly early on his back 12 despite Toutant appearing to try to kill himself by riding the last bit of the kicker on his ass, somehow managing to control his flailing backflip to knuckle on his butt. His dub and regulation back 10 were enough though. Burgener was riding super well, but Seppe is a full-on machine so it was no surprise that he was sat in the lead with one hit to go. Pat knew he had to pull something special so went for... a back 14 triple cork. Sadly he overcooked it and took a tumble but in any conditions, let alone those in Innsbruck, that's worth some full-on props. Matsson had been locking front 10 doubles like there's no tomorrow from the qualifiers so when Badertscher couldn't prevent a revert on the famed Ulrik flip it was the rookie who went through, and though Willett was stomping some techness Peetu Piiroinen was going bigger than everyone else while mixing between back 12s and Cab 12s. When Peetu's on this kind of form it was always going to be bye bye Eric.
So, the finals rolled around with what you could call the usual suspects Seb Toutant, Peetu Piiroinen and Seppe Smits being joined by the new Rick Kane, Nicklas Matsson. And interesting side story was developing at the time, too. With Willett out Seppe could take the TTR Tour Big Air title depending on how he faired. Business time.
It was clear that with the monster consistency that Peetu'd shown all event that it would take something special to deny him and after 2 runs he was sat in first. Smits' final cab 12 wasn't as clean as he'd have liked, Matsson didn't seem to have more than his front 10 double in his bag, so it was down to Seb Toutant on the last run of the contest to unset the Finn. He knew he had to send it, and send it he did with a back 14 triple cork attempt, the second of the night, but despite the unreal commitment it must have taken to dip his head for the third time all he got was an ass spanking and 4th place.
So Peetu won, Seppe took second and the TTR Big Air title, Matsson 3rd and Toots 4th. In the bulletproof conditions the riders were facing it was one hell of a performance. And one hell of a party at the Burn gig later it must be said.