As New Zealand snowboard slopestyle athletes Carlos Garcia Knight, Tiarn Collins and Zoi Sadowski Synnott begin their first practice day at the PyeongChang 2018 Games, Snow Sports NZ Head Park & Pipe coach, Tom Willmott, gives us an insight in to the tricks of the trade.
Slopestyle is a judged sport, with judging based on five criteria; progression, amplitude, variety, execution and difficulty.
Freeski and snowboard are relatively new sports and the progression is both constant and rapid. Tom explains:
“In 2010 ‘double cork’ manoeuvres were cutting edge, now they are common place. Jump to the present and we’re seeing triple cork 1440s and triple cork 1620s.”
But, enough with the jargon, what does this mean and how would you know if you saw one?
“A double cork 1080 involves three full rotations. A triple cork 1620s involves four and a half full rotations. The ‘cork’ element is the head dipping beneath the centre of mass. In a double cork the head dips beneath the centre of mass twice and in a triple cork, three times.
“In the Big Air event – which Carlos, Tiarn and Zoi will also compete in - we’ve even seen quad corks landed in competition.”
Above: Carlos Garcia-Knight competing
Tom says grabs are also an important factor.
“Grabbing hold of your snowboard or ski demonstrates to the judges that you’ve got very good control. It allows the skier or rider to put their own style in to their trick in terms of how they grab and the body position that they get in to while they’re grabbing.
“The judges want to see grabs that are not just ‘taps’ but that are held for a long time throughout the duration of the trick to demonstrate mastery and control of the trick."
“One of the most common is a mute grab, when the rider grabs between their feet. Tail grabs are also common – grabbing the tail of the snowboard.
“There are all sorts of different names for grabs, even one called a ‘bloody dracula’ which is grabbing with both hands on the tail of the snowboard behind the rider’s back foot.
“So now you know, you might want to keep an eye out for Carlos Garcia Knight performing a frontside double cork 1080 with a chicken salad grab.”
About the course
Situated at Phoenix Park, the slopestyle course is made up of three sets of ‘jib’ or rail features and then three sets of jumps.
The first order of business for the New Zealand team in today’s practice will be getting the rail tricks on lock. With five or six different line options the athletes will test out which works best for them. At the same time, they’ll be ‘rolling through’ the jumps to test their speed, saving their bigger jump tricks for the following training sessions later in the week.
Above: Zoi Sadowski Synott relaxing in the Olympic Village
The Kiwis are feeling confident about their practice sessions, already having some familiarity with the course.
Olympic Winter Games
Carlos Garcia Knight
“We had an Olympic test event here two years ago where we had a similar course built,” explains Tom.
“Some of the features have changed slightly but most of them are very similar. We also saw the designs for the course about six months ago and the features have been built exactly to spec, there are no surprises, we’ve known what the course was going to be like. That’s allowed us to consider some of the rail manoeuvres and tricks and practise them on similar features on terrain parks around the world.”
Coming back to progression in this sport, it’s not just the tricks which are changing.
“The standard four years ago was a straight jump but on this course we also have ‘skew’ jumps (set on an angle) on the first jump.”
As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Knowing that these skew jumps were going to be on the Olympic course, the NZ team was able to build and train on them back home.
“We built the jumps in the Soho Basin, in the back bowls of the team’s home resort at Cardrona at the end of the season. We also purchased a progression air bag (24m wide by 60m long and weighing 4.8 tonnes) where the athletes can practise their tricks and land safely into the air bag.
“It gave the athletes lots and lots of repetition in a safe environment.”
And now we can look forwarded to them showcasing their tricks on the world’s biggest stage.