LISTEN: U.S. snowboarder Dylan Thomas previews debut Olympic snowboard big air competition, featuring Corning, Gerard, Mack
February 19, 2018
If you ask U.S. snowboarder Dylan Thomas, the snowboard big air judges at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have a tough task on their hands on Tuesday and Friday at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre.
"Qualification is going to be absolutely insane for these (snowboarders)," Breckenridge resident Thomas said. "Triple-cork 1440s (Three inversions, four rotations) you're going to have to land absolutely perfectly, because you know the other guys behind you are doing the exact same trick. It's going to be insane to be a judge, too. You are watching the same trick 40 times and you have to pick who is better.
"I don't want that job at all, you know?"
LISTEN: U.S. snowboarder Dylan Thomas previews the debut Olympic snowboard big air competition, featuring Summit County snowboarders Corning, Gerard and Mack
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The first-ever men's snowboard big air Olympic competition will take place at 5:30 p.m. MST on Tuesday. Half-a-world away in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Summit County snowboarding trio of Chris Corning, Red Gerard and Kyle Mack are back more than a week after Gerard shocked the world by winning the Olympic snowboard slopestyle competition. Alaskan snowboarder Ryan Stassel will once again join the trio as the fourth American in the competition.
Ten days after Gerard pieced together an atypical and stylish line on the Olympic slopestyle course, the 17-year-old and sudden American sports star returns from a brief media tour of the United States to attempt to add another medal. Competing alongside him will be his good friend Mack. The 20-year-old Michigan-native Mack isn't a favorite to medal. But with his history of pulling out the unexpected in other big-time snowboard competitions, Mack just may have the tricks to qualify for Friday's final and compete for a medal.
Then there is Corning, the 18-year-old Silverthorne resident who was the only American man to compete in the X Games big air competition in Aspen last month. Despite battling a sudden stomach ailment, Corning managed a top-five finish under the bright lights at Buttermilk Mountain against some of the world's best. That group included big air icon Max Parrot of Canada, who won silver in Olympic slopestyle last week, and a returning Mark McMorris, who won bronze in Olympic slopestyle.
With his friend Corning fully healthy and ready to tackle a mammoth jump at the South Korean ski jumping complex, Thomas thinks big air viewers may see the 18-year-old attempt a massive move he's never perfectly landed in competition, one that requires five full rotations and four inversions.
"The backside quad cork 1800," Thomas said.
Executing this specific move may set the competition apart. The capable shortlist includes the powerful goofy-foot Corning and big air medal contenders Billy Morgan of Great Britain and Marcus Kleveland of Norway.
That said, Parrot — regarded by many as "The King of Big Air" — also poses his own quad cork, but one that is a switch frontside 1620 — slightly easier.
Thomas, who podiumed at the first U.S. Olympic slopestyle/big air qualifier at Mammoth Mountain in California last year, also said he believes the Pyeongchang big air jump lends itself to riders who go bigger on amplitude and longer on their landings.
"The landing is so long that guys can take it 100 feet from jump to land," Thomas said.
Whether it be in Tuesday's qualifier or Friday's final — both scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. MST – Gerard may look to execute a backside triple cork 1440, which, with a clean landing, may catapult him into medal contention again. He also has a switch backside 1260 and several other tricks in his own bag that will certainly keep him in contention once again.
As for the goofy-footer Mack, his backside triple cork 1440 is different from many other competitors thanks to his spin on it: a Japan Grab.
Mack also has a frontside double cork 1440 that should put him in the running. His big air quiver is so loaded and atypical, that Thomas doesn't expect the native Michiganer to pull out his famous "Bloody Dracula" grab in the big air competition, one he executed on the slopestyle course.
However the competition shakes out on Tuesday and Friday, Thomas thinks viewers shouldn't be surprised to see a few things that may be completely groundbreaking.
"Kyle, Red and Chris, and some of the others, they may have something up their sleeves," Thomas said. "Whatever happens, it's going to be fun."
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