SAPPORO -- Scotty Lago came up with the goods when he needed to, hitting the highest-scoring jump of the day with the final jump of the day to claim the Toyota Big Air snowboarding contest Feb. 12 at Sapporo Dome.
“Just thrilled to be here and to have won the contest,” said Lago, who was making his Toyota Big Air debut. “Coming here, I really had no expectations. I was overwhelmed by the big crowd and how awesome the jump was.”
Lago, a bronze medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, won an all-American final against defending champion Chas Guldemond when he was awarded 285 points for his final jump.
Guldemond also nailed his final jump, putting up 264 points, before Lago clutched up with the best effort of the day to pocket the $25,000 first prize and a Toyota Aqua car. He won it by hitting a switch backside 10 “with a late cork.”
“I was nervous for my final jump,” Lago said. “Chas put down his cab double 12 so I knew that I was going to have to step it up, I was going to have to stomp or I was getting second. Just kind of saying some positive reinforcement in my head before I dropped in, and I just gave it my all.”
And his all was more than enough on this day. For Guldemond, a win in Sapporo would have given him victories in successive weeks after having won a slopestyle gold at the Burton Canadian Open in Calgary last weekend. It was not to be, but Guldemond still went home $13,000 richer and said he very much enjoyed competing in Sapporo Dome.
“Having the event in the Dome was huge for Big Air,” said Guldemond. “It made the event bigger, better, very progressive. I was really stoked to be part of it.”
This is the 16th year the Toyota Big Air event has been held in Sapporo, but the first time it has taken place indoors at Sapporo Dome.
The riders all praised the 36-meter jump and appreciated the consistent conditions an indoor facility provides.
A total of 36,453 people attended the event over two days, including 27,294 for the finals on Feb. 12, setting a new attendance record for the competition.
Lago, a 24-year-old New Hampshire native, won the Olympic halfpipe bronze in 2010. He left Vancouver before the end of the Games, however, when controversial and provocative photos of him partying with his Olympic medal were posted on a website.
"Wow, well not like I did in the Olympics, that’s for sure,” said Lago, when asked how he would celebrate his first Toyota Big Air win. "Live and learn, right? We’re definitely going to go out and we’re all going to have a good time. Especially after a long, long day, we’re all ready to sip on a couple of beers. We’re going to go big, man, we’re going to celebrate and we’re all happy everyone came out unscathed, which is awesome."
Mark McMorris, a double gold medalist at the 2012 Winter X Games and one of the favorites coming in, was eliminated in the quarterfinals by fellow-Canadian Antoine Truchon. Both fell while landing their second jumps, but Truchon advanced by virtue of his 265-point first jump, the top score on the day to that point.
The semifinals saw Guldemond eliminate two-time former champion Eero Ettala of Finland, while Truchon was ousted by Lago.
There were 10 invited riders for this event, with eight from overseas and two from Japan. The only Japanese rider to make the quarterfinals, however, was Hiroki Matsuura. The Fukushima native made the 16-man field through qualifying on Feb. 11 but he was eliminated in the quarters by Ettala, a crowd favorite here who has also finished second twice in the Toyota Big Air.
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