The Olympic women’s snowboard big air finals at the Shougang Industrial Park were packed full of tension from start to finish with Anna Gasser eventually defending her gold from PyeongChang 2018 by edging 20-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand (silver) to the gold medal.
Japan's teenage sensation Kokomo Murase took the bronze.
“I'm feeling so happy right now, I honestly did not expect this at all," said Anna Gasser who didn't even have to pull out the triple cork she keeps in her back pocket in case of emergencies. "The level has been so high, all the girls were riding so well and I just wanted to show my tricks today -- it was surprising that I'm on top of the podium again."
"The winning strategy was maybe just having fun and not caring about the result that much, and just caring about showing my snowboarding today," added double gold rider Anna Gasser. "I wasn't playing it safe, I was trying to give it all."
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, first place from the qualifying rounds, went last of the 12 athletes in the first round of runs. Zoi’s massive 1080, which saw her land almost halfway down the landing zone, earned her a 93.25 – 3.25 points more than defending Olympic champion Anna Gasser's 1080 which lacked the same kind of punch and amplitude.
The New Zealander went last again in the second round, where her backside 1080 earned her a score of 83.75 (combined 177.00 from the two runs) that was just barely enough to knock Anna Gasser, who finished a frontside 1080 for a combined two-run score of 176.75, out of first place heading into the third and final round of runs.
Japan’s Kokomo Murase hit the knuckle on her last run trying a backside 1200, which saw her end the competition with the bronze medal before Anna Gasser nailed her stunning switch cab 1200 (95.5) to put the pressure on Zoi Sadowski-Synnott on the final run of the day.
And the tension seemed to get to the young rider for once. She fell trying for a massive backside 1260 that would have likely (had she landed it) given her a second gold medal of these Olympic Games.
“Before my last run I was always going to do my backside 1260, but after seeing Anna land her cab double 12, I knew I had to land it," said Zoi Sadowski-Synnott who will return to New Zealand with a pair of historic medals -- and the adulation of a whole nation. "I just took a little too much speed into it, and let it get away from me, but I couldn't be happier for Anna because she's been the main pusher of the woman's progression. I'm stoked for her."
All three podium finishers (Gasser, Sadowski-Synnott, and Murase) embraced in joint celebration at the end.
“Being an Olympic medallist has been my dream since a very early age, so I'm really happy to win bronze today here," said 17-year-old Murase of Japan -- who won her first X Games big air gold when she was just 13. "From a very young age I've been practicing a lot and I'm enjoying snowboarding a lot, and that is what allowed me to stand on the podium today."
Gold-medal Anna Gasser, in the end, was thrilled with the camaraderie and competition on display at these finals.
"It means so much but honestly what means more to me is that we had such a good stage," added the Austrian Anna Gasser, the biggest winner on the day. "All the girls were riding so well and we could show this to the world."
Women’s snowboard big air results
- 1 - Anna Gasser (AUT) 185.50
- 2 - Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) 177.00
- 3 - Murase Kokomo (JPN) 171.50
Jonah Fontela (olympics.com)