Last night saw the first of the finals at the inaugural World Snowboarding Championships in Oslo, with the crowd-pleasing quarterpipe event. All the talk before the competition was whether the current world record for the highest air – set at 9.8m by Terje Haakonsen at the Arctic Challenge in 2007 – would be smashed. In the end it wasn't to be, though the standard of riding from the field of international stars was impressive. Quarterpipe is the most technical discipline in snowboarding, and watching these guys fly down the stadium run-in at speeds approaching 80kmph before launching out of a 10 metre wall of ice never gets old. After 5 runs it was French rider Olivier Gittler who claimed the overall win and $40,000 thanks to a consistent series of tricks including this über smooth 5.8m McTwist:
It was a heart-warming victory for Gittler, who was making a miracle return from what looked to be a career-ending injury. Just a couple of years ago he suffered a compound fracture of his femur and initially lost the feeling in his leg, but after a lot of surgery and some intense physio he has managed to get back on his board and, even more impressively, compete back at the highest level.
Meanwhile, the quarterpipe event wasn't going to pass by without something special from Terje. After all, he helped make these first World Championships happen, he's the current record holder, and he was riding in his hometown. Despite some rare falls for the man known as the 'Sprocking Cat' (and at 37-years-old, surely they've gotta hurt more than they used to?) he still claimed the $25,000 prize for highest air with this 7.7m method:
So, the mythical 10m air remains tantalisingly out of reach... for now. In the meantime we'll sign off with another chance to watch Terje's world record from 2007. Believe it or not he didn't mean to do a 360 – he began to over-rotate his method and, genius that he is, managed to improvise and land switch!