Airing it out in Atlanta: Chris Corning of Silverthorne enters baseball stadium big air feeling strong
Red Gerard, Kyle Mack, Mark McMorris also scheduled to compete
SILVERTHORNE — On the road to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Friday night should be another moment for American pro snowboarder Chris Corning of Silverthorne to shine.
Under the lights at the Atlanta Braves’ 40,000-seat baseball stadium, SunTrust Park, Corning is one of the favorites to win the Via Big Air presented by Land Rover.
In terms of both World Cup significance and the special spotlight of a heavily-promoted event, Friday night’s fourth and final World Cup big air competition is effectively the Super Bowl to end the 2019-20 World Cup big air season. Corning enters the competition with a 2,200-1,500 point lead over Nicolas LaFramboise of Canada. With a win on the assembled 15-story tall big air jump at the Braves’ baseball park, Corning will have sewn up yet another FIS World Cup big air season title, and the accompanying Crystal Globe.
Pending qualifiers earlier in the day, Corning enters Friday night’s contest (5 p.m. MST, NBCSN) riding the high of landing his emblematic quad-cork 1800 melon grab trick at the FIS World Cup big air competition on Dec. 14. He landed the trick on the Chinese jump that will also serve as the Olympic big air jump in Beijing in just over two years.
The quad-cork 1800 is a high-flying, powerful and risky trick — at the boundary of snowboarding’s progression in terms of sheer physics. The trick requires a snowboarder to invert on his vertical axis four times while also completing five, full 360-degree rotations.
It’s a trick so massive Corning doesn’t even really practice it ahead of events, going for broke in the pressure of competition. That is, if he’s deemed the jump big enough and the conditions safe enough. He’ll make the same calculation on the SunTrust Park jump leading up to Friday’s competition, with the option of dialing down to a triple cork 1620 if he deems the jump not just right.
Over the past year, Corning has been the most consistent rider in terms of attempting and landing the quad-cork trick. But landing it on the Olympic jump in Beijing was a huge relief for him. It was evidence to himself he can land it on the jump that will be the platform on snowboarding’s biggest stage: the Olympics. The confidence was important, especially after he wasn’t able to get the trick around at the inaugural Olympic big air at Pyeongchang 2018.
“I was worried the jump wasn’t going to be big enough, this year it was,” Corning said Wednesday. “Hopefully they keep it the same size for the Olympics in 2022. … That jump for the new Olympics is the best jump we’ve ever had in a city. It’s not scaffolding. It’s super wide, so they can put a (snow)cat on it to groom it. It was super smooth, a little icy, but you can deal with that. Basically, it really set the bar for what big air jumps are going to be.”
Corning was awarded a 97.75 for landing the quad cork trick in Beijing. He paired that with an 83.50 for his flat-spin 1440 to earn third place at Shougang Park in Beijing. Turning his attention to Atlanta, Corning is gunning for an even better finish in a contest that will feature the U.S. and world’s best.
From the United States, Michigan native and Silverthorne resident Kyle Mack will drop in. The Pyeongchang 2018 big air silver medalist will compete after spending time earlier in the week riding the rails at close friend Red Gerard’s backyard jib park at Gerard’s home near Silverthorne.
Gerard, who specializes more in slopestyle (a discipline he took the gold medal in at Pyeongchang 2018) is also scheduled to compete in Atlanta. Other top American snowboarders include Judd Henkes of California and Luke Winkelmann and Sean Fitzsimmons, who each spend extensive time each winter living and training in Colorado.
For international competition, Olympic and X Games icon Mark McMorris of Canada should be a top contender on Friday. Other international snowboarders expected to contend for podium spots include Torgeir Bergrem of Norway, Ruki Tobita of Japan and Darcy Sharpe of Canada.
If Corning wins the big air Crystal Globe on Friday, it will also help the U.S. team as it clinches him a special World Cup spot on the big air circuit next season. That means a younger U.S. rider can take a spot that would have otherwise been reserved for him.
On the heels of the Beijing contest Corning knows only his best will be good enough to win in Atlanta on Friday. Corning expects the Atlanta competition to be at or near the level of skill the Beijing contest was, which Corning described as “as high as it gets right now.”
“For a three-run final this was by far the heaviest final ever,” Corning said, “because you have to be so consistent compared to the X Games finals jam format when you can have more time in landing tricks.”
In terms of physical fitness and health, Corning said he’s feeling 90-100% right now. In recent years the goofy-foot (right-foot-forward) rider has struggled with hip and foot injuries to his left foot, or back foot, on landings. But he’s continued to work through the offseason with Coach Nate Henry of Landow Sports Performance to build strength to prevent injuries. Corning said he’s continued to work with Henry digitally after the coach was hired by the NHL’s Dallas Stars to serve as their director of athlete development.
“My strength is really solid right now and I think it showed in China being able to throw that trick,” Corning said. “To be able to get around and land smoothly, it goes to show over the summer time I worked hard and got stronger. It was a lot of speed and stability stuff this year for my foot and hip.”
In the time between Beijing and Atlanta, Corning swung back home earlier this week to the High Country to take one day for fun, lapping Vail Mountain Resort with friend Windham “Lawndart” Miller. It’s exactly what he needed before the showcase of snow in the south Friday, with a forecast of 44 degrees when finalists drop in Friday night.
“That definitely helped the mind get ready for the contest,” Corning said.
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