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BIG AIR LANDS - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Monday February 19, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The newest and most spectacular sport to be included in the Winter Olympics has landed. It's Snowboard Big Air and Austrian Anna Gasser is a hot favourite.

It's the Olympic debut for the event that rewards the biggest and best single trick the snowboarders can lay down.

The riders head down a ramp steeper than any black run and launch themselves off a massive kicker.

The ramp in Pyeongchang is 44 metres vertical and the best of the snowboarders will fly up to 30 metres in the air off it.

Big air in PyeongchangBig air at the Olympics













They're judged on the difficulty, execution, amplitude - or height - and landing of their trick, or DEAL.

First up it was the women.

They were out to put on a show after the disappointing spectacle of the slopestyle final.

High, gusty winds at the slopestyle meant they were unable to showcase their best riding.

And put on a show they did.

It was an example of the best of women's freestyle snowboarding.

And the best of the best in qualifying was the 26-year-old Austrian Anna Gasser.

Anna GasserAnna Gasser


She is the main rival in big air events of GB's Katie Ormerod, who was expected to contend for the medals before she fractured her heel in training before Olympic competition began.

Gasser is the reigning World Champion and has won six of the seven big air World Cups she has competed so far.

Her worst result was second place in Moscow last year when she was beaten by Ormerod.

She was the first woman to land a backside double cork 1080 in a contest, at the 2017 World Championships in Sierra Nevada.

In qualification in Pyeongchang she scored a massive 98 points out of a possible 100 to go into Tuesday's final as the top scorer.

Anna GasserTop score for Anna Gasser













The top six of the 12 qualifiers all scored more than 90 points.

It's a contest that rewards the brave and Great Britain's sole competitor Aimee Fuller is definitely that.

She went for a double underflip in both her runs but couldn't land it.

She ended up on her face in her second run after digging her board into the snow on landing.

Aimee FullerFuller face first















She later showed off the damage on Twitter.

Aimee FullerBattered and bruised




















She finished in 25th place.

"You do need a bit of luck sometimes. It's a shame my luck was in the practice and not when it counted," she said. "I landed it in training. It's gutting not to land it in qualification.

"I think this has been the ultimate showcase of our sport and to be a part of such a progressive qualification, it's just insane.

"You had to do your biggest and best trick. If I landed, then I would have been in the final. I'm glad to know I was a part of that progression chain, but I was just unlucky today.

"I'm happy with my riding, knowing I'm in the top elective group of girls hucking the doubles makes me proud."

The final should be well worth a watch.

There will be three runs with the top two counting.

It takes place on Friday 23rd at 9.30am local time, 00.30am GMT.

But before then we have the men's qualification rounds on Wednesday, with the final on Saturday as one of the last events of the Games.

Rowan Coultas & Billy MorganRowan Coultas & Billy Morgan - photo GB Park & Pipe


















GB's Billy Morgan, who was the first - and remains one of the few - snowboarders to have landed a backside 1800 quad cork - will compete alongside teammates Jamie Nicholls and Rowan Coultas.

Watch Morgan land the quad cork in 2015:


Morgan hasn't done the quad since, and those that understand these things (and that's not us!) say the Pyeongchang big air may not be quite big enough for the men to want to attempt the trick.

What we do know, is that whatever tricks they lay down, it's sure to be spectacular.

Big air at PyeongchangBig air at Pyeongchang














MAIN PHOTO:  GB Park & Pipe

More news from day 10....

Women's ski halfpipe

Two British skiers who have had a difficult build-up to the Games were in action in the qualifiers.

22-year-old Rowan Cheshire was devastated when she crashed in training at the Sochi Olympics four years ago and could not compete.

She was a strong medal prospect there.

She suffered a serious concussion, had a slow return to skiing and has had a series of injuries to cope with since.

So she was delighted to make it to Pyeongchang and even more come through qualification and make it to Tuesday's final.

Rowan CheshireRowan Cheshire

"It means the absolute world to me," she said.

"Obviously four years ago I couldn't show anyone what I could do and I hurt myself quite badly and I've had such a whirlwind of a four years with injuries - my head, my ankle and everything - so I haven't actually skied as much as I would have liked to.

"So to come out here today and put down the run that I did, even though a bit scrappy, I am so, so proud and I am so happy to just land and get to the finals because that was my goal."

Cheshire's teammate, Molly Summerhayes, has come back from a serious knee injury two years ago.

Molly SummerhayesMolly Summerhayes

















She's not a funded athlete so has had to work at McDonalds to pay for her training and travel and launched a crowdfunding appeal to help her get to her first Olympics.

The 20-year-old younger sister of slopestyle skier, Katie, finished 17th in qualification and does not go through to the finals.

But she surpassed her own expectations, putting in what she says was her best performance.

Molly & Katie SummerhayesMolly Summerhayes gets a hug from her big sis
















"I can't believe I got to compete at an Olympics, I'm still in a bit of shock. I'm really happy with the way I skied, it's the best I've ever skied," she said.

"I'm just speechless. I'm so proud of what I achieved.

"You have expectations of what the Olympics are going to be like. But it's better. I just think it's so surreal.

"Those runs were more than what I wanted to do. I originally hadn't planned to put the left seven in at the bottom.

"When I was here at the test event a year ago I was training it and I kept falling. That was the last time I tried it.

"I really want to have it in my run so I thought I would just go for it and see what happened. I landed it in practice so I thought I would put it in and see what happened."

Highlights coming up on day 11....

Women's ski halfpipe final

The three-run final takes place at 10.30am (1.30am GMT).  Rowan Cheshire will be the fourth skier to drop.

Men's ski halfpipe qualifying

Watch out for some spectacular tricks as 27 skiers vie to make it through to the 12-man final.

Great Britain has three skiers going into qualifying - Murray Buchan, Alexander Glavatsky-Yeadon and Peter Speight. 

26-year-old Buchan, who's been moonlighting as an expert television commentator for the BBC, finished 17th in Sochi.

Murray Buchan commentary dutiesMurray Buchan joins the BBC commentary team - photo GB Park & Pipe
















He made his debut at World Cup level as a 16-year-old more than 10 years ago, and has had four top 20s in four World Championships appearances.

Peter Speight and Alexander Glavatsky-Yeadon have both had breakthroughs this season, picking up top 10 results in World Cups which secured their Olympic selection.

Speight's fourth place was the best ever finish for a British male in ski halfpipe.

Qualifying starts at 1.15pm (4.15am GMT)

Olympic halfpipe venueOlympic halfpipe venue















Short track speed skating

After two disastrous outings in the 500 metres and 1,500 metres, GB's Elise Christie is hoping to be cleared to skate in the 1,000 metre heats.

The triple world champion was injured in a fall in the 1,500m and will have a fitness test to determine whether she can start in the contest over her favoured distance.

There are eight heats starting at 7pm (10am GMT)

Women's bobsleigh

The crowdfunded British pair, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore are out to prove a point.

They had to raise £30,000 themselves to compete on the World Cup circuit this season after an overspend by their governing body and have finished inside the top 10 four times.

The first two runs take place on Tuesday and the final two on Wednesday.

Run one is at 8.50pm (11.50am GMT), run two is at 10.01pm (1.01pm GMT)

Read our earlier stories from the Games....

And PlanetSKI's guide to what's on when ...

And our rolling Olympic blog of anything that takes our fancy....

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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