16-year-old Japanese rookie wins the prestigious Air & Style Beijing by blowing minds and stomping a backside 1440 triple cork on the last run of the contest. Watch that madness, and that of the other finalists, Peetu Piiroinen, Ståle Sandbech and Mathias Weissenbacher... We'll have a fuller report on Monday, but that was just nuts. Plain and simple. [UPDATE - You can now read our breakdown of the haps last Saturday beneath these videos.]
1st PLACE - YUKI KADONO - BACKSIDE TRIPLE CORK 1440
2ND PLACE - PEETU PIIROINEN - CAB 1260
3RD PLACE - STÅLE SANDBECH - BACKSIDE 1440
4TH PLACE - MATHIAS WEISSENBACHER - BACKSIDE CORKED 1080
"Unexpected". That's perhaps the word that could best sum up events at the Air&Style Beijing last Saturday. Big names fell by the wayside early on, rookies made it all the way to the Super Finals, landed triple corks were deemed not good enough, and finally, on the last jump of the night, a 16-year-old Japanese kid put it down when it mattered to win the coveted Ring of Glory. Another word that could work equally well is 'Insane'.
The early rounds saw a couple of dudes you'd expect at the business end of things sent for an early bath. Last year's winner, Ulrik Badertscher, was dispatched in the first round by Torgeir Bergrem, Seb Toutant was knocked out in Round 2 by Roope Tonteri, as was Seppe Smits (falling on Mathias Weissenbacher's sword). In our Air & Style Beijing predictions post prior to the event, we'd staked our dubious reputations on Mark McMorris to walk away with the win, and to do so with a backside triple cork 1440. Well, in an effort to make us appear smarter than we are, we were right in a way - McMorris did put down the bs 1440 triple, and a bs 1440 triple did win the contest, but sadly for Mark - and our reputation - when he put down the triple dipper in Round 3 (the first ever triple cork at an Air & Style, nonetheless) against Mathias Weissenbacher his landing was a little off, his hand drag significant and the judges gave it a harsh, but in our opinion fair, score that wasn't enough to see him progress to the Super Finals.
The Super Final itself was a mix of newcomers and established names. As everyone should know by now, 'Never Bet Against Peetu Piiroinen' is a good thing to bear in mind at major events, and Piiroinen's huge pop, clean style and solid stomps saw off an on fire Sage Kotsenburg (whose double cork backside 10 Japans were epic, it must be noted) to see him face off against last year's World Snowboard Tour winner Ståle Sandbech and his backside 1440, and the relative unknowns of Mathias Weissenbacher and Yuki Kadono. Ståle took the early lead, putting down another 1440 with consummate ease and for a while it looked like that would be enough - the others fell or looked like they were out of ideas to answer his score of 92 points.
But cometh the last run, cometh the man, as they say. All of a sudden Peetu fired off a textbook Cab 12 which, despite us having seen countless times before is really pretty hard to fault, and 93.33 points was his reward. It looked like he was a shoe-in for another Air & Style trophy for his bulging cabinet. Anyone who claims that they knew what would happen next is either lying or should have our jobs. Up until this point Yuki Kadono had been riding strong and putting down back double 10s and switch back double 12s, but we were of the opinion that the pressure would get to him and that it would be near impossible for him to pip Peetu's perfection. Clearly, he had other ideas. The last jump of the whole contest, Yuki whirled through a backside triple 14, stomped it clean enough and immediately his hands reached for the sky.
After a short wait the judges confirmed it. 16-year-old Yuki had won the whole shebang with a score of 97.67 and you could tell he couldn't quite believe what he'd done. Pulling something like that out the bag at the critical moment is a rare thing at this level, but he managed it and deservedly took the champagne shower, the cash, the ring and all the adulation that goes with it.
With the Air & Style celebrating its 20-year anniversary when it drops in on Innsbruck in January, this was the perfect pre-party party with a defining moment that rivals any in its previous 19 outings.