Marcus Kleveland's Big Air Sweet 16
Inviting 16-year-old Norwegian Marcus Kleveland to Snowboard Big Air at X Games Aspen 2016 is no fluke: Kleveland has been landing double cork spins in competition since he was 11 and became one of the first -- and still the youngest -- to land a triple cork in 2013 at age 13. Now he's in even more elite company as one of three riders to have landed a quad cork, putting down an attention-grabbing backside quad 1800 in Austria in November. The next generation has arrived.
"When I get to X Games, I'm just going to try the jump and then everything goes from there," Kleveland says, shrugging off pressure to attempt the trick in competition but admitting it's on his mind. "If it feels right, I'll try it. That would be huge."
If Kleveland medals, he'll be the youngest to do so in XG Snowboard Big Air history. But he won't be the youngest to compete in the discipline: Sage Kotsenburg was 16 yrs., 6 mos. in his first appearance in 2010, edging out Kleveland by three months. Kotsenburg returned in 2011 and medaled.
In Aspen, Kleveland will be competing with heroes like Mark McMorris and triple cork pioneer Torstein Horgmo, who have five X Games Big Air titles between them. Horgmo won the event his rookie year (2008), providing a nice precedent for Kleveland. If Kleveland brings a quad to XG, he can have the gold as far as his fellow Norwegian is concerned.
"It's been pretty insane to watch it, and they're impressive tricks, for sure," Horgmo says of Kleveland's quad and the quadruple underflip 1620 that Canadian Max Parrot landed in April. Horgmo doesn't plan to keep pace. "I guess it's a natural progression, but I'm not touching that one. I don't have space in my brain for a quad."
With other huge tricks like a switch backside triple cork 1680 in his repertoire, Kleveland could be a podium threat even sans quad.
Kleveland is pulling for an all-Norwegian podium in Aspen, hoping to share it with Horgmo and Ståle Sandbech. Kleveland says both riders have inspired his style and pushed him to learn new tricks, as have others in the field like McMorris and Sebastien Toutant. If all goes well in Aspen, he has other Big Air goals in mind.
"X Games is the big one," Kleveland says. "It's everybody's dream. It's also really cool that X Games is coming to Oslo in February. It's the perfect place for it, and it would be so cool to ride at the first X Games in my home country."
The way Kleveland sees it, his whole life has been leading towards precisely these kinds of opportunities. His family home in Dombås, Norway (careful on the pronunciation, Kleveland says it more like DOOM-boss), is at the base of a tiny ski area with a big terrain park. "I can literally ski in and ski out. It's really good. That's where I grew up. That was my playground as a kid. I'd mostly ride with my friends, who are all skiers. They're not pros, but they're good!"