Photo: Olivier Kraus
The new season of the LG Snowboard FIS World Cup kicks off like the last two years – with a halfpipe competition “down under". For the third consecutive time, the world’s top freestylers open the winter in the 22-foot-halfpipe in Cardrona. A total of about 130 riders coming from more than 20 nations vie for the first World Cup points and the honour to place on the podium in New Zealand – at one out of four Halfpipe World Cups counting for the qualification road to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. No wonder that an international high class starter field gets ready to drop in the halfpipe for the qualifiers on August 25th, 2009. One day later, the semi finals and the finals are on the program.
The entry list for the season’s first World Cup reads like the “who is who" of snowboarding. Led by the 2009 World Cup champions Jiayu Lu (CHN) and Ryoh Aono (JPN) some more big names will compete. The Chinese rising star will face 2002 Olympic Gold medallist Kelly Clark as well as her fellow US-team riders Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler who finished 1-2 at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino. In addition, US-girls Jamie Anderson, Elena Hight and Ellery Hollingsworth will give their best.
But reigning World Champion Liu also has to have an eye on her countrywoman Zhifeng Sun, 2009 WCS runner-up Holly Crawford (AUS), Queralt Castellet (ESP) as well as Norway’s Linn Haug who placed third in last year’s season opener in Cardrona. Japan also sends a strong team including last year’s winner Shiho Nakashima, Soko Yamaoka and Rana Okada.
In the men’s competition, it seems that the armada from the land of the rising sun gets ready to dominate the superpipe. Besides 2009 World Champion Ryoh Aono and last year’s competition ruler Kohhei Kudoh some more top pros from Nippon will drop in: Kazuhiro Kokubo, Daisuke Murakami and Kohdai Watanabe. They will spin and style against Finnish rippers Markku Koski, an Olympic Bronze medallist of 2006, Antti Autti, Peetu Piiroinen, Janne Korpi and Risto Mattila. In addition, Luke Mitrani and Mason Aguirre from the USA will try to rock the show.
But there are even more guys being able to perform on an international top level: Mathieu Crepel (FRA), Christophe Schmidt (GER) as well as Nathan Johnstone from Australia and Canada’s 2009 World Championship silver medallist Jeff Batchelor and his team mates Crispin Lipscomb and Justin Lamoureux aim for the podium just like Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov, Rolf Feldmann and Christian Haller. New Zealand pins its hopes on James Hamilton who was the only “kiwi" making it to the final of the top twelve athletes in Cardrona last year.