Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott has "some ideas" of what she'll try to pull off when she rides for a medal in the final of the women's Big Air event at the Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang on Friday.

But the 16-year-old from Wanaka is keeping mum for now "because I don't want to jinx myself", she laughed.

She turned in a sizzling performance on her second qualifying run to score 92.0 and sit top of the board for a few minutes. She finished qualifying fifth for the final and is certainly a contender to win what would be just the second Winter Olympics medal for New Zealand, after slalom skier Annelise Coberger's silver at Albertville, France in 1992.

Austrian Anna Gasser topped qualifying with a 98 on her second run with a 1080 double cork.

Advertisement

Slopestyle silver medallist Laurie Blouin is fourth best qualifier while two-time slopestyle gold medallist Jamie Anderson of the United States qualified one spot behind Sadowski-Synnott so she'll certainly be in top company when she aims for the podium in a discipline making its Olympic debut.

Zoi Sadowski Synnott, of New Zealand, runs the course during the women's slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo / AP
Zoi Sadowski Synnott, of New Zealand, runs the course during the women's slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo / AP

Sadowski-Synnott sat 11th after her first run, which incorporated a double wild cat manoeuvre, but she knew she had to up the ante second time round to stay inside the top 12 to make the final. So she went for the switch backside 900, and nailed it.

"After I landed my second jump I was really stoked," she said last night. "I'd never landed it before in a contest. I saw the score and it put me first. I was fully ecstatic. You do something and get rewarded for it and it feels real good."

Sadowski-Synnott, who rates her slopestyle the better of her two disciplines, was disappointed after finishing 13th in that event at the start of the Olympics, and vowed to make up for it.

"I knew I had to go real hard in Big Air, to show the world what I've got — but it's definitely not my strongest," she added.

She has a couple of days training before the final and will work on more tricks.
"I hope so," she said of her chances of pushing for a medal. "Hopefully I can try some stuff and hopefully if everything goes well on the day, we'll see where that puts me. I want to show the world what I've got. It's really cool to be part of women's snowboarding because it's just progressing so much."

Zoi Sadowski Synnott, of New Zealand, runs the course during the women's slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo / AP
Zoi Sadowski Synnott, of New Zealand, runs the course during the women's slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo / AP

Gasser will jump last of the 12 in Friday's final.

"Everyone showed their absolute best," she said. "And that's what we all needed after slopestyle."

The slopestyle event was not pretty, and only nine of 50 runs were completed in shifting, whippy winds. Most riders agreed it should not have been contested.

So the Big Air was a big success, and showed the athletes is a more agreeable light.
Norway's Silje Norendal, who qualified 10th, got it right.

"This is the craziest qualifier we've ever had," said Norendal.

"Even if you went big and you fell, they'd all go 'Whooooo,"' she said. "That's pretty cool. That's all I want. I don't really need people to understand what we do, but just to enjoy it." And for those who don't know their switchbacks from their double wildcats, that'll do nicely.

"The tricks were amazing," Gasser said. "I was standing up there and I was like, 'This is so sick."'

New Zealand's two entrants in the women's freeski halfpipe, Janina Kuzma and Britt Hawes, failed to qualify for tomorrow's final. Kuzma, who finished fifth at Sochi four years ago, but was battling a knee injury, finished 16th, with a best score of 67.8 in her first qualifying run, while Hawes, at her first Olympics, was 21st, with a best of 57.4.

Kuzma's lead-up to the Games was hampered by a knee injury, which she tweaked in training on the morning of qualification, clearly affecting her movement down the halfpipe.

"Not very confident out there today," she said. "I had a crash in training on my third run and I had to pull out of the rest of training and reassess what was going on with my knee.

"Our medical crew taped me up really well. I did a few runs down the slope just to see how my knee was feeling and it was really good to go.

"But my body just couldn't hold up today.''