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Kleveland champion on snowboard big air’s night of champions

1800 party ensues at X Games Aspen after Corning lands quad-cork for 1st time

Marcus Kleveland of Norway rotates high above the big air jump en route to winning the men's snowboard big air competition at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 31.
Photo by Matt Morning / ESPN Images

Sven Thorgren had an energy-induced epiphany while he and podium mates Marcus Kleveland and Mons Roisland chatted Sunday night about what was — moments prior — the greatest snowboard big air contest ever seen.

By far.

Without a single fan in attendance under the lights at Buttermilk Ski Area, the medal-winning trio was buzzing on the sporting feat that they and five other fearless young men helped manifest.



“Now that I think back to it, it was insane,” the Swedish silver medalist Thorgren said. “What just happened?”

Then, after saying how far the sport had come in just four years, he pointed at Kleveland.



“It’s thanks to this guy,” Thorgren said.

Thorgren paid homage to the night of champions’ champion, Kleveland, a 21-year-old from Lillehammer, Norway, who twice won slopestyle gold on winter sports’ most hallowed snow in Aspen. He also, for all intents and purposes, is the father of an X Games contest: the knuckle huck.

Big air glory has been a longer and more winding road for Kleveland, one that has included a devastating shattered knee-cap injury. But with his graceful four-inversion, five-rotation quad-cork 1800 with an indy grab and a switch (riding opposite foot forward) 1,800-degree spin to his board’s front side, Kleveland earned two 48s for a total of 96 points to capture a height he hadn’t soared to yet.

In a way, the night was a full-circle achievement actualization four years after he set the high-water mark that Sunday night’s competitors flooded over. At X Games Aspen 2017, Kleveland became the first rider to land in competition the quad-cork variation of what’s been this transcendent pro generation’s athletic apex: the 1800.

Little did he know what the night had in store Sunday, as each of the night’s top-five finishers — all above 90 points with their two top scores — landed at least one 1800.

It all started, Kleveland said, when Chris Corning of Silverthorne landed the quad-cork 1800, a truly awesome moment for the 21-year-old American after several failed attempts in recent years.

“I saw Chris do it first run, and I’m like, ’Yeah, we have to do it,’” Kleveland said.

Chris Corning of Silverthorne tweaks out his grab on a switch frontside flat-spin 1800 en route to a fourth-place finish at the men's snowboard big air competition at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 31.
Photo by Matt Morning / ESPN Images

From there, Kleveland landed his two, and the silver medalist Thorgren (95) and Roisland (93) landed 1800s they said they’d never tried before. Then there was Japanese daredevil and 2019 X Games Aspen champion Takeru Otsuka finishing fifth (91) on the strength of landing a never-before-done trick by anyone: a quad-cork 1800 rotating to his board’s front side.

Corning had the greatest performance of his now-veteran career landing his quad-cork 1800 and a tweaked-out, flat-spin 1800 spinning to his board’s front side after riding into the ramp opposite foot forward, which was good enough for fourth place (92). It’s a trick Corning learned this week and showcased to the world on Instagram for the first time Saturday night.

It was that kind of a week for all these athletes. After a COVID-19 year where mere practice time has been hard to come by, they felt like gluttons this week with snowmobiles shepherding them up to endless laps. In that time, all the lads learned new tricks and built off one another.

It crescendoed in an 1800 party Sunday night. A celebration the friendly Kleveland and fellow countryman Roisland agreed to, after some slight deliberation: They would celebrate with some gifted vodka before boarding a plane back home Monday morning.

“It’s always a good time being in Aspen,” Kleveland said.


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