The towers of the Battersea Park power station provided an iconic backdrop for the LG FREEZE 2009, as London hosted this prestigious snowboarding World Cup event for the second year in succession.
The preparations started early on Saturday morning, groomers and piste bashers, ably led by Spencer Claridge took on the gargantuan task of getting the take off and landing zones ready, filling in the ruts created by the previous evening’s “Battle Of Britain” competition and spreading a fresh new layer of snow.
Arriving early I cased out the joint, before the masses arrived, I used this quiet time to shoot panoramic views of the ramp and the power station.
The competition started in earnest at 11am and a flat grey sky had me searching inside by kit bag for an ND Filter, Stefan Gimpl AUT was the first rider in heat one to land his air, stomping a huge 900 to set the bar high, Nate Kern from the UK whipped the home crowd into a frenzy after landing a crazy corked 700, holding his own and relegating some of Europe’s seasoned campaigners to also rans. Benedict Nadig SUI who placed third here last year fell by the wayside, crashing on his first of two runs as did Matevz Petek SLO and Michael Macho AUT. In qualifiying, one run counts, so sketching a landing stacks heaps of pressure on riders, hoping to progress to the final.
Jack Shackleton the other Brit rider in heat one couldn’t match Nates form and after round one languished in mid table.
With their longboat moored nearby, the Norwegian contingent despite the strong urge to loot, pillage and ransack strapped their boards on and instead assaulted the leader board, after round two, three of the five qualification spots were under their firm control Stefan Gimpl AUT and Domen Bizjak did their best to beat back the marauding Vikings joining Sondre Tiller, Gjermund Braaten and Morton Kleivdal in the final.
The second heat saw Ben Kilner and Jamie Nicholls repping for the UK. Jamie’s development into a Worldclass snowboarder continues and an off-axis 720 placed him halfway up the leader-board after run one, while Ben confirmed his status as a top contender with an inverted 720 that ranked 6th overall, setting him up well for run two, never one to rest on his laurels Ben went all out on his second run and was unlucky not to land cleanly as he slightly over-rotated his landing, a nervous wait lay in store, would his first run score be overtaken ? meanwhile Jamie Nicholls stepped up to the plate, stomping a 900 which although not quite good enough to qualify was enough to lay down a marker.
JAMIE NICHOLLS HAS ARRIVED !
The action in heat 2 was amazing, with the scores tallied, the enormity of the Scandinavian threat was apparent 10 of the top 15 riders hailed from Norway, Finland and Sweden. Unfortunately for Ben Kilner (the UK’s highest placed rider) most of them were in his heat, beating him down to 14th overall, a superb result and a confidence builder for Ben who picked up a whopping 180 Worldcup points, an established member of Team GB, Ben like the rest of the squad is looking with relish to the Winter Olympics now less than 4 months away.
Gian Luca Cavigelli SUI cruised stylishly and effortlessly to the final with two massive airs.
As the sun went down the crowd grew larger and noisier and the big boys came out to play, Slovenia’s ascent as a force in World snowboarding was bolstered with 2 men in the final, the format this time was three runs with the best two runs scoring, the first two runs saw the bubble burst for the Norwegians as one by one they dropped out of contention , meanwhile Matevz Pristavec and Gian Luca both stomped monster airs in round one to lead the finals only to sketch out on run two. While Stefan Gimpl the Austrian rider who doesn’t fall down shovelled on the pressure with a second round 1080 that was by far and above the best trick of the day, Domen Bizjak picked up the flag for Slovenia and landed his 2nd big trick ratcheting up his score, Gian Luca’s second round air couldn’t match his first, but he was bang on the money in the third round catapulting himself onto the podium with a perfectly stomped 900.
Gian Luca Cavigelli achieved a career best 2nd place, while the Slovaks through Domen Bizjak took home bronze, but no one could stop birthday boy Gimpl being crowned champion, something this legend of the sport and crowd favourite has made a habit of.
Congratulations and happy birthday Stefan, you are the man !