The 2011 FIS Snowboard World Championships taking place from January 14th to 25th in La Molina, have had an extraordinary start at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona with a vibrant Opening Ceremony and the first of six battles for medals: the Big Air (BA). The Palau Sant Jordi, converted into a small outpost of the Pyrenees with its a 31 meter ramp inside, brought together fifty of the best snowboarders and more than 8,400 spectators enjoying two shows: the opening ceremony and the BA. The ceremony was attended by, amongst others, Gianfranco Casper and Jordi Hereu, Mayor of Barcelona, which opened the 9th edition of the FIS Snowboard World Championships.
This afternoon the Big Air, the only discipline held in these championships with an exclusively male participation, saw 45 riders hitting the big ramp in order to qualify for the final twelve ranks reaching the medal decision.
Once the official part ended, the competitors were released to show proper sports. After the ramp got prepared for the twelve finalists, all of them had to perform three jumps. The best jump out of the first two and the final third jump determined the podium. The finalists included the Austrian Clemens Schattschneider, Belgian Seppe Smits, Swiss Gian-Luca Cavigelli, the Dutch Rocco van Straten, Canadas Zachary Stone, Slovenian Marko Grilc, Frenchman Mathieu Crepel and no less than five Finns: Petja Piiroinen, Ville Paumola, Aleksi Partanen, Roope Tonteri and the defending champion Markku Koski.
After the first two heats, the provisional leadership was held by Frenchman Crepel, already a 'veteran' of the circuit at the age of 26, with a score of 28.4 points ahead of Cavigelli and Grilc. A bit behind Piiroinen, Smits, Partanen and Stone lurked for their chances before the final heat. Surprisingly the winner of today’s first qualifying heat Clemens Schattschneider and also Koski shredded all their chances by underperforming both their initial jumps.
The decisive third jump brought a thrilling change to the ranking as Crepel, coming out last, took a gamble by pulling of a Switch Double Cork Backside 1080º, but couldn’t land it well which left him with an insufficient score of 13.2 points for this run. So the way was paved for the 19 year old Finn Petja Piiroinen, who in the end got rewarded for his consistency by showing two good jumps worth 25.5 and 26.2 points, and solemnly exceeding the 50 points barrier. The Canadian Zach Stone took silver by stomping a massive third jump earning him a 27.7 which brought him ahead of the Belgian Seppe Smits, level in score. For Smits, bronze is the second medal after winning silver just two years ago.