Underneath the Jakobshorn here in Davos, in what must be one of the most incredible contest set up's ever, the 'Boom' has just come to town. Under an amazing riding, lighting and music set up, the 6 Star World Snowboard Tour event, the O'Neill Evolution, has stoop up and got really serious really fast. With the qualification session this afternoon advancing 13 riders to meet the 11 invited riders in the first round of the main event. All the signs through training and qualifications were that the O'Neill Evolution was going to yet again be a statement as to the level of where professional snowboarding is at – and it did not in any way disappoint…
Tonight's action took on the form of a 24 man head-to-head knockout format, where the 12 winners of each of the battles, plus the 4 Lucky Losers – being the highest four scored runs from riders who did not win their heats moving into the second round. Hands down, the level was off the hook!
Moving into the business end of the night, Round 2 morphed into a pure head-to-head knockout, no lucky losers, no friends on a powder day… While TV loves the head-to-head format, at times it can be tough for riders, but it also separates the men from the boys, those who understand and embrace the format, and those who may not have quite got it. Possibly the battle of the night was Markku Koski(FIN) vs Markus Mathis(SUI). Koski lead into the third and final run, deciding to go the style route, rather than to try to seriously improving on his Backside 1080 Mute to front boardslide, to boardslide hardway out, he went the super stylish Backside 540 Double poke 540 Indy. Possibly not since Terje Haakonsen's Stoney Baloney at the Air & Style 1995 when he had won the event before his last run, has such a style trick been thrown in a contest. Yet, under incredible pressure, Markus Mathis(SUI) dialled a huge Backside 1080 Double Cork to Lipslide to Nose Press to take out that battle by a single point.
Equally as impressive was Sebastian Toutant, who while sitting with a significant lead of 78.80 pts score vs a 54.20 from Matthias Vogt, dropped in to his last run with options abounding. Take it easy, or go for it. Not a surprise for anyone who knows 'Toots', his cab 1260 Double Cork Melon to Backside Lipslide to 270 out was the second highest score of the day. We sat with Toots and asked him where and why he pulled that out of the bag, and he said, "It's all to do with the format. I've been in knockout formats before, and left the door open to be taken out. I had to drop in first on my last run, so I wanted to make sure I closed that door straight off the bat. I think all of the riders who are likely to make it to the finals are pulling out what they need to but leaving something in the back pocket to blow the judges away – when it is needed."
The highest scored run of the day came from the impressive Maxence Parrot (CAN) who has already landed the Triple Cork, the first seen in a contest environment in Europe, throwing a flawless Frontside 1080 Double Cork Mute to Backside Boardslide to Noseslide Hardway out. When we asked him about the Triple he said, "I've wanted to do the triple for a long time, and the set up here is so good it sort of come naturally. I haven't pulled it out yet because I want to keep something up my sleeve for the judges as we get towards the finals." Yet, with Sebastian Toutant having all but landed a Triple in training we asked Maxence, if facing the last run with a Triple on the ground, what would he be thinking? He replied, "I first need to make the finals, and then I need to work out where I'm sitting going into the final run. If I am already on the podium, I'll be pulling out all stops. The best thing about these types of contests formats, is that you have to manage the tricks you've got with the situation at the time. I'd say, looking at who is still in the contest, I know I'm going to have to dig deep to get anywhere near winning this season's O'Neill Evolution."
As the lights dim here on site, and final preparations are underway for tomorrow nights Men's and Women's Big Air Finals, we leave you with the crazy line up for the Men's finals:
Antoine Truchon(CAN) vs Kyle Mack(USA)
Torgier Bergrem(NOR) vs Maxence Parrot(CAN)
Markus Mathis(SUI) vs Emil Ulsletten(NOR)
Kalle Järvilheto(FIN) vs Sebastian Toutant(CAN)
Big things are a foot. All the action is live broadcast and live webcast from 13:15 for the Woman's final, with the Gian Simmen 'Legends Session' live from 15:00 and moving onto the Men's 6 Star World Snowboard Tour O'Neill Evolution 2013 Big Air Round 3 starting at 17:30 and the Finals live at 18:30.