Photo: Chris Witwicki
Whether it was from changing light conditions, nerves or exhaustion, Sunday’s men’s competition was a strange one to watch through run one, with only three riders putting down clean runs from top to bottom in their first go-around.
Thankfully, the sun coming out for run two meant that we saw some standouts, with none more spectacular than that of 17-year-old Taiga Hasegawa, who put down what might have been the run of the season on his way to a first career slopestyle victory.
Leading things off with a cab 270 on to 270 out on the first rail, Hasegawa then went frontside bluntslide to floaty 810 out on the launch rail, before going into what the riders collected at the bottom of the course were calling the best jump line of all-time.
With a cab 1440 tail grab, into a switch backside 1620 Weddle, and finally an outrageous backside 1800 Weddle on the final booter, Hasegawa simply blew the doors off the competition in run two, and when he cleanly landed his frontside 720 on the final halfpipe feature it was pretty clear who was going to own the top score.
With a 92.00 for his efforts, Hasegawa locked down the only score in the 90s seen at any point in the competition, and afterwards the young man who also claimed Bakuriani 2023 big air World Championships gold this season was suitably pleased.
“Thank you everyone,” Hasegawa said from the finish, “I’m so happy to get my first slopestyle podium and be first. Thank you so much,” before adding one of the highlight moments in flash interview history when he finished with, “I need to study English!”
Second place would go to Liam Brearley of Canada, who put together the most remarkable rail line of the day with a switch backside 270 on to pretzel out on the first rail, followed by a cab 270 on to 630 melon out on the canon rail, and finished things off in the halfpipe with a super stylish frontside 720 for a score 89.00 and his second career Silvaplana podium.
Rounding out the podium in third place was Sweden’s Sven Thorgren, who was really the only rider to put down a truly exceptional run with his first attempt. With a frontside 1440 tail grab, a backside 1620 melon and a cab 1260 tail grab through the jumps - as well as a classic alley-app 540 nose grab in the pipe - Thorgren would earn a score of 85.00 and his second third-place podium of the season.