The queen of big air
Anna Gasser headed into the PyeongChang 2018 Games as the standout favourite for the new snowboard big air event, such was her dominance in the discipline, and she did not disappoint. A magnificent cab double cork 1080 on her third run won her a historic gold medal!
Gymnastics on a snowboard
Anna Gasser grew up, and still lives, in the Austrian resort town of Milstatt, located on the banks of the lake of the same name, in Grossdombra in the region of Carinthia. "As a child, I would spend many happy hours by the lake. I was a real water baby, and fascinated by the diving platform. From the age of 12, I was jumping from a height of 16 metres," she recalled. At school, she dreamed of becoming a vet, but at the same time became an accomplished gymnast, a promising young Austrian athlete who decided to hang up her leotard at the age of 15, discouraged by the demanding training schedule. Around two years later, Anna was inspired by images of freestyle snowboarding shown to her by her cousin. She started to try her hand at aerial acrobatics on the snow, rapidly developing her talent, helped by her years as a top-level gymnast.
A memorable Olympic debut at Sochi 2014
Anna began competing in her discipline, slopestyle, during the winter of 2010-2011 and made her first appearance on the World Cup circuit in early 2013, at the age of 21. In November, she gained an international reputation by becoming the first female snowboarder to land a cab double cork 900 (inverted double rotation with a half turn). She gained her first podium spot in Stoneham (Canada) one month prior to the Sochi 2014 Games, where she made a strong impact on the features and kickers of the Rosa Khutor park course on 6 February. The young Austrian qualified in first place in the first-ever Olympic slopestyle event. But the following day, in the final, which saw the American Jamie Anderson secure the inaugural Olympic gold in the discipline, Anna fell on both runs and had to settle for 10th place.
Unbeatable in big air
In 2015, Anna took silver in the slopestyle discipline at the FIS World Championships in Kreischberg (Austria). Later that year, in June, the International Olympic Committee added big air to the programme for the PyeongChang 2018 Games. In this new discipline, consisting of launching yourself off a giant ramp to produce the biggest tricks possible – suiting Anna perfectly – the rising Austrian star would become almost unbeatable. She won her first World Cup big air event in Milan in November 2016, reaffirming her dominance in the discipline in PyeongChang, with another win in the same month at the pre-Olympic test event in Alpensia. In fact, she would not step down from the podium (six wins and one second place) until the 2018 Winter Games.
A historic 100 at the World Championships
At the same time, at the X Games, Anna was getting to know every step of the podium: silver in big air in Aspen in January 2017, then gold in slopestyle and bronze in big air at the European edition in Hafjell (Norway) in March. The former gymnast crowned her 2017 season by becoming big air world champion in Sierra Nevada (Spain) on 17 March, winning with a historic score. "In fact, Gasser became the first woman to ever land a backside double cork 1080 mute in a competition [inverted triple rotation while holding the front of the board], wowing not only the judges and fans but also her coaches and herself," noted the FIS. This trick earned her the maximum possible points for her third run: 100! At the end of the winter she took home both the big Crystal Globe for overall snowboard freestyle and the small Crystal Globe for big air.
Austrian Sportsperson of the Year
2 November 2017 is a landmark date in the history of Austrian sport, which has produced so many great champions on snow and ice. It is the day that Anna Gasser was named sportsperson of the year in her country, becoming the first snowboard specialist (among both men and women) to be awarded this highly coveted prize. "This is a very emotional moment for me, it's extra motivation to work even harder and try to continue the momentum from last winter," Anna said, thinking ahead to the PyeongChang Games, adding that she must have watched the footage of her perfect-scoring trick at the 2017 World Championships "a hundred times".
An Olympic gold for the history books
Anna competed in two World Cup big air events in Milan and Beijing before the 2018 Games, and won them both. In January, she won masterfully at the X Games in Aspen. Her second Olympic Winter Games got off to an unsuccessful start at the Phoenix Snowpark on 12 February with the slopestyle competition, in which she fell on both her runs to finish in 15th place. Seven days later in Alpensia, she shone in the big air qualifications, announcing her arrival with a score of 98.00, which put her in first place and on a direct path to the final.
On 22 February, when she appeared for the third time in the final, as the last competitor, she was already guaranteed a medal, but not the gold, since the cumulative scores from the first two runs had put the double Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson in first place going into the final run. It was the moment for the Carinthian rider to pull out and stomp her signature trick: the cab double cork 1080. The trick earned her a score of 96.00 for a total of 185.00, securing Anna the gold medal ahead of Anderson (177.25) and the young New Zealander Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (157.50).
"It is the greatest success I can imagine," she said following the win. "Not only because it is the Olympic Games, but also because of the level of the competition. When I started at age 18, these disciplines were not in the Olympics. Then, two years ago, big air entered the Olympic programme and I said to myself that it would be pretty cool if my dream could become a reality and I could participate in the Olympic Games. After receiving a place at university, I decided to pursue my dream and to put my studies on the backburner for a period." A period, as it turned out, that would see her enter the history books as the first female Olympic big air gold medallist!