The big-names at the Toyota Big Air in Sapporo Dome have just finished today’s training with defending champion Chas Guldemond (USA) showing the strongest performance of the ten invited riders.
Other favourites Mark McMorris (CAN) and Eero Ettala (FIN) landed all their jumps smoothly, despite Ettala saying the landing area was a bit bumpy.
The two invited Japanese riders Kazushige Fujita and Keito Kumazaki were struggling with the new 36m ramp, and so were more than half of the Japanese riders in today’s preliminary round.
While the fans cringed at some of the spectacular crash landings, organiser Tobias Eder from Tobis Travel Solutions kept his cool and says he wasn’t surprised. “A lot of the Japanese riders are fantastic in the backcountry, but not used to the kind of kicker we built here.”
Despite the challenges, all riders have praised the competition’s new location and facilities. “The new ramp offers bigger air-time and obviously we don’t have to worry about weather conditions like in previous years when the competition was held in an outdoor stadium.”
Eder says all invited riders were only too happy to come to Japan, since the service offered here was far better than at any other competition in Europe or North America. “In other countries the riders are often left alone and have to organise a lot of things themselves. Here we have 10 staff taking care of the participants around the clock. From dealing with sponsors to driving the riders to doctors – we take care of everything. And of course the Japanese fans are some of the most enthusiastic people you can imagine.”
The riders will finish the day at a Welcome Party in Sapporo Park Hotel, which kicks off at 7.30pm tonight.