The highs and lows of the Aspen X Games 2021

By Daphne Seberich

If you enjoy watching Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing then you are no stranger to the X Games. Each year the best athletes in those disciplines are invited to compete at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. This year was no different. The difficult worldwide situation didn’t stop the organizers from holding this special event that many professionals regard as the “Olympics of Freestyle Ski/Snowboarding”. But as a spectator, watching the competition go down without fans was heartbreaking and just not the same. 

Photo credits: ESPN Press Room

The passion, excitement and breathtaking tricks the athletes portrayed just felt different to watch and, I dare to say, almost emotionless to me. It is obvious that the riders would give their best to earn a gold medal, no matter what, but to me the crowd’s response to the athletes’ effort is priceless. Even though the commentators Craig McMorris and Brandon Graham have done an outstanding job entertaining the at-home viewers, something was clearly missing for me. Some competitions did not only lack an audience. The athlete’s runs were not as imposing as twelve months ago too.

My favorite events held at the X Games are hands down the Wendy’s Knuckle Huck and the Monster Energy Men’s SuperPipe snowboarding disciplines. In my humble opinion, they are the most exciting and creative competitions to watch, especially Wendy’s Knuckle Huck. The creativity the athletes put into how to descend a slope’s knuckle just amazes me. It’s about style and boldness, not just technique. 

Photo credits: YouTube & X Games – ESPN

Last year’s Knuckle Huck event was the most entertaining competition to watch at X Games. Zeb Powell, Markus Kleveland and Fridtjof “Fridge” Sæther Tischendorf’s showdown blew everyone’s mind run after run. That is what I envisioned and imagined to see at the 2021 event as well. Needless to say, I was immensely disappointed. 

The audience, unfortunately, had to see many falls, uncompleted runs and mediocre tricks. We were just waiting for something exceptional to happen. No one really blew it out of the park. Markus Kleveland was probably who came closest to it with his Cab 7 double Cab 7. And he didn’t even win. 

As a surprise for everyone, Dusty Hendricksen, an X Games rookie, managed to earn gold at the competition. Did he deserve it though? I’m not so sure about that. His most impressive trick was his Cab 1 tail press-frontflip, which, in his defense, was massive. Jake Canter and Markus Kleveland, although, were just, in my opinion, on another level. The technical difficulty of the tricks Hendricksen executed didn’t even come close to Canter’s and Kleveland’s. And for creativity? As they would say in the U.S., they were “miles” apart. 

Video rights: ESPN

Even though I was delighted to see a woman compete in the Knuckle Huck event for the first time, Jamie Anderson, the Slopestyle queen, just couldn’t keep up with what the men were presenting to the judges. There was too big of a difference between her tricks and the ones performed by her competition.

On a higher note, the 2021 Monster Energy Men’s SuperPipe event was mind-blowing, full of adrenaline and suspense. The three giants of the discipline Ruka Hirano, Scotty James and Yuto Totsuka were ready to battle each other for the highest step of the podium. Hirano was set to stun everyone with his talent proving himself worthy of the convocation, as this is his first appearance at the X Games. Aussie James was aiming at a three-peat, having won the last two SuperPipe editions. Japanese rider Totsuka had back-to-back wins in sight after triumphing over James at the Laax Open. 

Photo credits: OA Sport, Forbes & Aspen Times

The competitiveness was super high. Most of the riders amazed us viewers with the difficulty of their tricks, the amplitude of their jumps and the “stomping” of their landings. The tight battle between the three favorites for the win was incredible. Until Scotty James ended his last attempt, no one could’ve predicted the outcome of the event. The bar was raised run after run. The impossible was made possible. That’s what I, as a viewer, was expecting from the athletes and they did not disappoint. 

As the X Games SuperPipe events are now ranked based on overall impression, we as viewers had no clear idea of how close the Australian snowboard superstar and the Japanese 18-and-19-year-old prodigies really were throughout the competition. But Yuto Totsuka sealed the deal on his last run, right before Scotty James dropped into the snow-pipe, putting him under immense pressure to perform. The Japanese stunned the jury with his incredibly difficult and highly technical tricks. James undoubtedly put down his best run at his last attempt, closing off the competition. But it wasn’t enough. No three-peat for the Aussie, whereas Totsuka’s back-to-back wins became reality. 

Video rights: ESPN

One thing is clear: These were not the usual X Games that we look forward to and adore. Nevertheless, some competitions amazed me. Some let me down. I’m hoping for some audience-packed Aspen 2022 X Games with neck-to-neck competition and fair scoring. In addition to that, we want all the incredible athletes who were unable to compete because of health reasons (Shaun White, Birk Ruud and Zeb Powell to name a few) back at Buttermilk Mountain. Let the countdown to Aspen 2022 begin.  

Photo credits: Aspen Snowmass

A bittersweet night for Russia: Nadryshina dominates, Loginov disqualified

The 17-year-old Junior World Champion Sofia Nadryshina wins back-to-back races after her first career win in Scuol. Russia ends on a bittersweet note the Austrian competition thanks to World Champion Loginov’s disqualification in the Men’s Big Final. Aaron March back on top after 11 years.

Photo credits: Insidethegames, South China Morning Post & FIS

By Daphne Seberich

The FIS Snowboard World Championship continued after the events held at Carezza and Scuol in Bad Gastein. For the 21st straight season, the individual Parallel Slalom competition in Austria went down in style, with the world’s best athletes pushing it to the limit all day long, especially during the finals under the lights. Numerous tight heats went down on the night, while ideal weather and course conditions allowed the riders on hand to deliver an exciting showcase of top snowboard racing. 

The Women’s event was dominated by Russian 17-year-old rookie Sofia Nadryshina, setting the fastest time in the qualifying rounds. She annihilated tough competitors like Melanie Hochreiter, Ladinia Jenny and Selina Jörg on her way to the Big Final in highly contended match-up heats. 

Cheyenne Loch from the German Snowboard Team was the last obstacle Nadryshina had to overcome. Like a rocket, the Russian took off at the start of the Big Final, accumulating a substantial advantage right from the get-go. Although Loch pushed herself to the limits to catch up the rookie, the German came wide just ahead of the finish line on the second-to-last gate, which led to her ending in a DNF.

Photo credits: FIS

“This is such a great experience for me”, said Nadyrshina, “Last season I finished twice in second place and now I managed to get back-to-back victories. It feels amazing. There are just so many emotions I can’t even describe them. Thanks to all my coaches and all the support I get from my team.”

Completing the podium is the German duo Loch-Jörg. The last one out of the two edged out the Swiss 2020 Parallel Slalom World Champion Julie Zogg in the Small Final. 

As the competition in Bad Gastein was the first stop of the Parallel Snowboard Slalom tour in 2020/21, the Austrian events’ final standings determine the discipline’s ranking. However, the Parallel Overall standings have changed. The victory on Austrian territory grants Nadyrshina the standings leadership with 274 points after four competitions. Ramona Theresia Hofmeister dropped to second with 264 points, while Jörg is following behind in third place with 240 points. 

Photo credits: Fis Snowboard, Augsburger Allgemeine & OA Sport

Over at the Men’s event, Russia seemed to have the upper hand in the qualifying session. Andrey Sobolev led his teammates Dmitriy Karlagachev, Dmitry Sarsembaev and Igor Sluev to take respectively first, second, third and fourth place in the qualification round. A key absentee was South Tyrolean star and veteran Roland Fischnaller, who didn’t qualify for the round-of-16 for the second event in a row. 

The Russian that came out on top after highly contended heats against exceptionally demanding opponents, such as Stefan Baumeister, Andrey Sobolev and Igor Sluev, was Dmitry Loginov. The current Parallel Snowboard World Champion made it to the Big Final, where he then had against the South Tyrolean athlete Aaron March

The battle to the top seemed to be a closed case, as Loginov beat the Italian with a 24 hundredths of a second advantage to the finish line. Video control, although, deemed the Russian guilty of initiating a jump turn in the middle of his run, swinging the tail of his board out over the stubby before it had fully gone around the gate. Not completing the turn, his run was deemed a DNF. Loginov ended being demoted to second place, handing over the win to March, who had only won one previous time in his career 11 years ago. 

Photo credits: Eurosport Italy & Neveitalia

“It’s a little bit surprising to win today,” explained March after the awards ceremony, “Obviously after crossing the finish line I thought I’m in second place, but nevertheless I was riding well. I had a good feeling especially in the last ten gates or so and this is where I was winning my heats today. I wasn’t very happy with my result in the qualifications so I really wanted to show in the finals that I can be fast, and yeah I did my best and of course, victory feels great now.”

Third place went to Austrian Andreas Prommegger, who won the head-to-head battle against Scuol’s winner Igor Sluev. 

Two DNFs. What handed over the win to Russia in the Women’s competition ended having to resign victory over Italy. A bittersweet conclusion to the night event. 

Andreas Prommegger took over the lead of the Parallel Overall ranking with 221 points, only one ahead of teammate Benjamin Karl. Aaron March’s win grants him third place in the standings, having already been in the Top-3 this season. 

Photo credits: Eurosport Italy, Edubilla & MN2S

The next event will be the first team competition occurring in Bad Gastein on the 13th of January. Russia, Austria and Italy are the top teams in the Men’s challenge, Germany, Switzerland and Russia in the Women’s. Who will come out on top?