Marcus Kleveland the champion on snowboard big air’s night of champions

1800 party ensues at X Games Aspen after Corning lands quad-cork for first time

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily News
Marcus Kleveland won big air gold on Sunday at X Games Aspen 2021 at Buttermilk Ski Area. Photo by Matt Morning/ESPN Images.

Sven Thorgren had an energy-induced epiphany while he and podium mates Marcus Kleveland and Mons Roisland on Sunday night chatted about what was — moments prior — the greatest snowboard big air contest ever seen.

By far.

Without a single fan in attendance under the lights at Buttermilk Ski Area, the medal-winning trio was buzzing on the sporting feat that they and five other fearless young men helped manifest.

“Now that I think back to it, it was insane,” the Swedish silver medalist Thorgren said. “What just happened?”

Then, after saying how far the sport had come in just four years, he pointed at Kleveland.

“It’s thanks to this guy,” Thorgren said.

Thorgren payed homage to the night of champion’s champion, Kleveland, a 21-year-old from Lillehammer, Norway, who twice won slopestyle gold here at winter sports’ most hallowed snow. He also, for all intents and purposes, is the father of an X Games contest: the knuckle huck.

But big air glory has been a longer and more winding road for Kleveland, one that has included a devastating shattered knee-cap injury. But with his graceful four-inversion, five-rotation quad-cork 1800 with an indy grab and a switch (riding opposite foot forward) 1800-degree spin to his board’s frontside, Kleveland earned two 48s for a total of 96 to capture a height he hasn’t soared to yet.

In a way, the night was a full-circle achievement actualization four years after he set the high-water mark that Sunday night’s competitors flooded over. At X Games Aspen 2017, Kleveland became the first rider to ever land in competition the quad-cork variation of what’s been this transcendent pro generation’s athletic apex: the 1800.

Little did he know what the night had in store Sunday, as each of the night’s top-five finishers — all above 90 points with their two top scores — landed at least one 1800.

It all started, Kleveland said, when Chris Corning of Silverthorne landed the quad-cork 1800, a truly awesome moment for the 21-year-old American after several failed attempts in recent years.

“I saw Chris do it first run and I’m like, yeah, we have to do it,” Kleveland said.

From there, Kleveland landed his two and the silver medalist Thorgren (95) and Roisland (93) landed 1800s they said they’d never tried before. And then there was Japanese daredevil and 2019 X Games Aspen champion Takeru Otsuka finishing fifth (91) on the strength of landing a never-before-done trick by anyone: a quad-cork 1800 rotating to his board’s front side.

Corning had his greatest performance of his now veteran career landing his quad-cork 1800 and also landing a tweaked-out flat-spin 1800 spinning to his board’s front side after riding into the ramp opposite foot forward, which was good enough for fourth place (92). It’s a trick Corning learned this week and showcased to the world on Instagram for the first time late Saturday night.

It was that kind of a week for all these guys. After a COVID-19 year where mere practice time has been hard to come by, they felt like gluttons this week with snowmobiles shepherding them up to endless laps. In that time, all the lads learned new tricks and built off each other.

And it crescendoed in an 1800 party Sunday night. A celebration the friendly Kleveland and fellow countryman Roisland agreed to, after some slight deliberation: they would celebrate with some gifted vodka before boarding a plane back home Monday morning.

“It’s always a good time being in Aspen,” Kleveland said.