Austria’s newest star Gasser looking to make Olympic history
Anna Gasser goes into PyeongChang 2018 as overwhelming favourite for snowboard's new big air event. The Austrian Sportsperson of the Year for 2017 is also one of the world's leading slopestyle specialists, and is targeting an unprecedented Olympic double.
Thursday 2 November 2017 was a landmark date in Austrian sport, which has produced so many great champions on snow and ice over the years. That was the day Anna Gasser was voted her country's Sportsperson of the Year, becoming the first snowboarder to be given this prestigious accolade. It was the final prize of a season when the 26-year-old swept all before her. "This is a very emotional moment for me," she said on receiving the award. "It's extra motivation to work even harder and try to continue the momentum from last winter."
A historic hundred
In 2016/17, Gasser dominated the big air – which will make its Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018 – featuring on the podium at each of the season's six World Cup events. That included a victory at the Olympic test event at the Alpensia resort in November 2016. It was there that she clinched a place at the 2018 Winter Games with her signature trick, the cab double cork 900, along with a perfectly executed 720 backside.
"It's amazing to win the dress rehearsal for the Olympics," she declared. "It's a significant moment and boosts my confidence for PyeongChang 2018. The ramp was really great; everything went smoothly. The speed was sensible and it was high-quality snow. I hope I can put in just as good a performance in a year's time!" Come the end of the season, she had won the FIS Crystal Globe for Big Air, as well as the one for the overall Snowboard Freestyle World Cup ranking.
Over the same period, she reached every step of the podium at the X-Games, winning silver in big air at Aspen (USA) in January, then slopestyle gold and big air bronze at the European version in Hafjell (NOR) in March 2017. A week later in Sierra Nevada (SPA), the former gymnast then rounded the season off with a World Big Air Championship title – and a historic score.
"Gasser became the first woman to land a cab double cork 1080 mute (triple rotation with twist whilst holding the front of the board) in competition, to the amazement of not only the judges, but also the crowd, and herself!" reported FIS of her third effort. It was a routine that earned her the maximum score of 100.
"I'm so happy, it's the icing on the cake," said the Austrian, who converted to winter sports from gymnastics at the age of 15. "I'm so pleased to have landed this trick, I'd been thinking about it for a long time. I know that over the summer the other girls are going to try to push the boundaries even further, so I need to keep pushing to be at my best at the Olympic Games." In November 2017, she also added: "To pull off that trick at the Worlds was a really important step, and I think I've watched the video back a hundred times!"
A remarkable Olympic winter
Gasser's is also one of the best slopestyle specialists in the world. It was in this event that she made her Olympic debut at Sochi 2014. After finishing first in qualifying she then fell on both her runs in the final and had to settle for 10th place.
In 2015, she won a slopestyle silver medal at the FIS World Championships in Kreischberg (AUT) and won her first two medals of the pre-Olympic season at the same venue in January 2017, then in Quebec (CAN) a month later.
The start of the 2017/18 season saw her maintain the momentum she had been hoping for, with victory at the first Big Air World Cup event in Milan (ITA) in November, where she again landed her cab double cork 1080 mute on her second run. There was another victory in Beijing in late November, where an exceptional jump in her first run earned her a score of 93.75.
It appears highly likely that Gasser will also compete in the slopestyle event in PyeongChang, where she will, of course, be among the favourites. It is worth noting that, since snowboarding was first added to the Olympic programme at Nagano 1998, no woman has managed to win more than one gold medal. Austria's 2017 Sportsperson of the Year could achieve that feat at a single Games!