Snowboard Big Air: The year of the quad?
Mark McMorris may have landed a frontside triple cork 1440 on his way to Big Air gold at X Games Aspen 2015, but that was just the start of a year filled with spin progression. After X Games, three snowboarders landed first-ever quad corks. Two of those athletes are competing at Aspen 2016 -- one is a former gold medalist, the other is a 16-year-old rookie.
The switch quadruple underflip 1620 that Max Parrot, the 2014 Big Air champ and 2015 silver medalist, stomped at Whistler Blackcomb in April could power him to victory if he lands it in Aspen. The same goes for the backside quad cork 1800 Norwegian rookie Marcus Kleveland landed in November, launching from a massive kicker over an 82-foot gap on Austria's Stubai Glacier.
Max Parrot has been crushing Big Air podiums since last January and is hell bent on bringing quads to X. He is coming to Aspen hot off a win at the Air+Style Beijing December, where he landed a backside triple cork 1440 and an even higher-scoring frontside triple cork 1440.
Kleveland is a dark horse candidate. At 5'5 and 138 pounds, he's the smallest, lightest athlete in the field, which helps his chances to bring a quad around. But he'll also be Big Air's youngest competitor on action sports' biggest stage, and X Games can be hard on young rookies. Kleveland didn't advance from round one at the December Air+Style event in Beijing.
Japanese rider Yuki Kadono is the only other athlete in the field who says he'd like to try a quad at Aspen 2016. He hadn't landed one yet as of December, but Kadono has a history of attempting new tricks at XG, like the backside triple cork 1620 that helped him secure Big Air silver in 2014 and the switch backside triple cork 1620 he tried for the first time in his final run in 2015 to claim bronze.
If quads are possible on the 2016 X Games Big Air jump, it's important to remember that Snowboard Big Air is not a one-and-done contest. Scores will be totaled from a rider's two best tricks from the 25-minute jam session, meaning that even a stomped quad might not be enough for gold. Athletes will need a second big trick, too.
Defending Big Air gold medalist Mark McMorris says he won't have quad spins ready for X Games, but he has learned a trick from Kadono: the switch backside triple cork 1620, which he landed in November on the same jump at Stubai where Kleveland got the quad. He's coming into X Games with confidence after a Dew Tour Slopestyle win in December and a second place Big Air finish behind Parrot at Air+Style Beijing.
Canadian Sebastien Toutant owns Big Air silver (2011) and bronze (2012). He was injured in practice in 2014 and an alternate in 2015. He finished second at Air+Style Los Angeles behind Kadono with a backside triple cork 1440.
Swedish rider Sven Thorgren (4th in 2015) took third at December's Air+Style Beijing with a quirky Cab 1260 roast beef shifty and a backside 1440 stalefish. He dislocated his right shoulder in November 2015 on the Stubai jump after over-rotating a triple cork so badly that it nearly became a quad. Thorgren says he's trying not to get too caught up in the triple and quad cork madness. He wishes judges would agree with him that a slow-spinning and particularly poked-out backside 180 is the sickest trick ever.
Torstein Horgmo -- who has three Big Air golds to his credit -- is on the mend. He fractured his L1 vertebra in September after a tailbone slam while filming "Shredtopia." He says that he hopes to be healed up enough to be a contender. From the looks of this recent Instagram post, it appears that he's taking his training as seriously as ever. Which is not so seriously.