JAPAN’S GLOBE HOPES STRONG WITH IWABUCHI AND MURASE LEADING THE WAY
On the women’s side of things it’s the heavy-hitting Japanese duo of Reira Iwabuchi and Kokomo Murase leading the way into the big air grand finale, with Iwabuchi atop the World Cup standings with 160 points, and Murase not far back with 122.
With women’s big air World Cup co-leader Jasmine Baird of Canada not making the trip to Kreischberg for this week, there are just a handful of other riders with a realistic shot at the women’s big air crystal globe, with the likes of Evy Poppe (BEL), rising star Mari Fukada (JPN) and Melissa Peperkamp (NED) leading the way.
However, with Iwabuchi and Murase both two of the most odds-on consistent podium threats in snowboarding, it’s looking pretty unlikely we see one of the challengers leapfrog to the top for this season’s trophy. Iwabuchi has a win and a third place finish in her two big air starts so far this season, and while Murase has been held off the podium thus far in 2022/23, her first-place result in qualifying at Copper Mountain (USA) just before the holiday break shows that last season’s Park & Pipe overall crystal globe winner is ready for a breakout.
If we’re speaking of challengers to the Japanese duo for the women’s win in Kreischberg this weekend, it’s in the roster of riders who don’t have a realistic shot at the crystal globe where things get really interesting.
First we need to talk about Austria’s own Anna Gasser, who is mathematically still in the globe hunt with 80 points from her second place finish in Chur to open the season, but would need a win combined with hugely disappointing results for both Iwabuchi and Murase in order for that to happen.
The two-time reigning big air Olympic gold medallist, Gasser will be hungry for her first home-soil victory since the 2016/17 season when she won the Kreischberg slopestyle World Cup. Gasser is – quite obviously – hugely popular here in Austria, so the pressure will be on, but if there’s anything the 31-year-old has shown over the course of her career, it’s the ability to rise to the biggest occasions. With 22 World Cup podiums and 10 victories, along with her Olympic golds and myriad other successes, there’s almost no one in the world who boasts the pedigree of Gasser.
Then there’s the southern hemisphere contingent, as Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) and Tess Coady (AUS) are both on hand and ready to roll in their first international competition laps of the season.
Last time we saw Sadowski-Synnott in the bib she was scoring some heavy hardware at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, opening snowboard competition there in China with an all-time-great gold medal performance in the slopestyle, and then finishing things off with a silver in big air. Throw in her proven backcountry prowess as exhibited at the Natural Selection tour over the past couple of winters and you’ve got one of the best all-around snowboarders in the world.
Coady won bronze to join Sadowski-Synnott on the Beijing 2022 slopestyle podium, before finishing off the World Cup season with a fourth place finish in Silvaplana (SUI). While the 22-year-old has five slopestyle World Cup podiums to her name, she’s still searching for her first on in big air, and this weekend in Kreischberg we could very well see that happen based on what she’s been throwing down in training.