Four months after they effectively capped the 2017-18 snowboard season by going 1-2 as a teen tandem in the X Games Norway big air final, Japan’s Takeru Otsuka and Summit County’s Chris Corning rode to the top two spots in Saturday’s season-opening snowboard World Cup event.
But this time, on his 19th birthday, the Corning — a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete — edged the 17-year-old Otsuka at the Cardrona Alpine Resort to kickoff the 2018-19 season.
The defending International Ski and Snowboard Federation freestyle snowboard World Cup champion, Corning topped the podium in New Zealand on Saturday by landing one of the biggest tricks in the ever-evolving sport: a quadruple-cork 1800.
The groundbreaking trick is at the forefront of competitive freestyle snowboarding’s current progression for more rotations and inversions, as the maneuver requires athletes to rotate five 360-degree horizontal rotations while also inverting four times on their vertical axis. It’s also one Corning came oh-so-close to landing during last year’s Olympic run, namely on his final hit on the big air jump at February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympic final. At the inaugural big air Olympic event last winter, Corning finished one spot out of medal position, in fourth place, after slamming the back of his airbrushed-Team USA helmet on the South Korean snow on that attempt at the 1800, going for broke despite not having enough room to land his final 360-degree rotation.
The 1800 is also a trick landed only a handful of times previously, namely by a couple of Corning’s elite international rivals such as Norwegian star Marcus Kleveland and Canadian star Max Parrot. Corning had previously stomped the move on the big air jump at Mammoth Lakes, California, last June, though that was out of competition.
Saturday, he became the first American to ever land the trick in competition on his second run at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Under clear and calm conditions, Corning and other big air competitors — including fellow Silverthorne resident Kyle Mack — took to a 75-foot jump. Competitors each had three runs on the day, with their best two-jump scores combined for final rankings.
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At the end of the first round of runs in the finals, Corning ranked in second place after landing a tidy flat-spin 1440 (four full horizontal rotations) for a 90.60. It was Otsuka who led the group with a score of 95.6 for his cab 1620 (four-and-a-half rotations) with an indy grab.
Then Corning laid it all on the line on run two, stomping perfectly that backside quad-cork 1800 he’s been working at for so long, choosing to throw in a melon grab for good measure. Corning’s execution earned him a 98.00 and bumped him up into first place on the strength of one of the highest big air World Cup scores ever seen.
Then on run three, Corning put the exclamation point on his birthday by upping his frontside score with a frontside 1440 chicken salad for the win and a winning score of 190.80.
“I couldn’t ask for a better birthday,” Corning told reporters in New Zealand. “I haven’t done the quad since the Olympics and I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since (finishing fourth there). I’ve been thinking about doing it and when I landed my first trick today I knew I had two chances to go for it.”
Otsuka secured second place with a frontside triple 1440 with a mute grab on run three. It was his first career FIS World Cup podium and a total score of 178.40. Norway’s Mons Roisland claimed his third World Cup podium with a third place result (175.40).
The familiar Summit County rider, 2018 Olympic big air silver medalist and Michigan native Kyle Mack took fourth place with a score of 166.00. It was the second-highest of the five American riders who competed Saturday.
Silverthorne resident Red Gerard, last year’s Olympic gold-medal winning slopestyle champion, finished in 21st place with a score of 77.20.
With his win in New Zealand, Corning earned 1,000 points for this season’s FIS World Cup standings, while Mack earned 500 and Gerard earned 100. The next FIS World Cup snowboard big air event is scheduled for Nov. 3 at Modena SkiPass in Italy, followed by a World Cup big air event in Beijing, China, Nov. 23-24.
The first FIS World Cup snowboard halfpipe event of the season is scheduled for Dec. 6 and 8 at Copper Mountain Resort while the first FIS World Cup slopestyle event of the season is scheduled for Dec. 19 and 21 at Secret Garden, China.