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China warming to cool board meetings

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 07:24

China warming to cool board meetings

Pre-competition favorite Mark McMorris of Canada, a three-time big air champion at the Winter X Games, executes a roll on his way to winning the Beijing leg of the FIS Snowboard Big Air World Cup series presented by Infiniti at Workers' Stadium on Saturday.Wei Xiaohao / China Daily 

Beijing big air competition spotlights world's best ahead of 2018 Games

Daredevil snowboarders demonstrated why big air deserves Olympic status by showcasing high-flying artistry in Saturday's finals of the Air and Style Beijing Snowboard World Cup at Workers' Stadium.

The landmark venue echoed with rock-fueled celebration of extreme sport, mirroring the International Olympic Committee's effort to attract more young fans to winter sports by including big air in the snowboarding competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.

Big air involves boarders hurling themselves off a vertical drop and performing a variety of flips, spins and other stunts before landing on the slope.

Canada's world No 1 Mark McMorris won the men's title in Beijing with three high-scoring final jumps while Austria's Anna Gasser captured the women's crown.

Both champions bagged 1,000 ranking points in their buildup for the Pyeongchang Games.

China warming to cool board meetings

McMorris, who has competed in the Beijing event seven-times since its debut in 2010, said it's critical to present snowboarding action up close.

"It's really important to tap into this market to let Chinese people see high-level snowboarding and push the sport in China," said the personable 23-year-old, who returned to action after recovering from a serious injury in March.

"It's important for girls like Anna and guys like myself to come here to perform in front of these people and bring the action to the city."

Gasser agreed, saying: "Big air is the only snowboarding event held in front of urban audiences (during the Olympics). There's excitement and accessibility, which attracts a lot of people."

Founded in Innsbruck, Austria in 1993, the Air and Style global series first came to Beijing in 2010 and has been held annually in the Chinese capital, supported by the China Ski Association and Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau.

In July, the event was upgraded by the International Ski Federation (FIS) as a World Cup leg, offering Olympic qualifying points.

Among 74 riders competing in Beijing, five Chinese men and women also tested their skills on the high ramp but none qualified for the final.

Still, the high-profile stage at home provided local talent with a chance to learn from the world's best.

"Snowboarding is quite new in our country. Our athletes are short of high-level experience and lack the rankings to compete in big events. The Beijing event was a great drill for them to learn up close from the world's best riders," said Li Yang, director of the snowboarding department of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center.

With big air also on the program for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, local organizers are confident the expertise gained from hosting the air-and-style event for eight years will help ensure a successful operation at the Games.

"We are experienced in providing facilities and services for this specific discipline now. We just need to improve in organizational details to meet the Olympic standard five years down the road," said Shao Xiaojun, an official from the Beijing sports bureau.

Upon suggestions from the IOC and FIS, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee has selected west Beijing's Shougang Industry Park as the venue for big air in 2022, making it the closest of all skiing venues to the city center.

"It's an ultimate way to bring the sport into the city, connecting more fans to the action, and hopefully getting them out to the mountains to be part of snowboarding as a whole," said Roberto Moresi, competition department director for the FIS.

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