X Games Aspen 2020 preview: Without Kim, Mastro has chance to shine in women’s snowboarding
The star of women’s snowboarding, California’s Chloe Kim isn’t expected to compete this week at X Games Aspen. The five-time gold medalist, including four in Aspen, will miss the contest for the first time since her rookie run in 2014 as she’s opted to sit out the entire season to focus on her studies at Princeton.
This means there is an opening for someone else to take the spotlight at Buttermilk. While Kim is gone, many other stars return, such as Jamie Anderson and Anna Gasser, so there isn’t much to fret about. Here’s what to look for in the women’s snowboarding competitions at X Games Aspen 2020:
Finals: Thursday, 9 p.m.
2019 podium: Laurie Blouin (gold), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (silver), Jamie Anderson (bronze)
The field of eight is led by Anderson, who needs only two more Winter X Games medals to match the all-time mark held by halfpipe legend Shaun White, who won 18 over his career. Shockingly, all five of Anderson’s gold medals have come in slopestyle; she’s only medaled in big air at X Games twice, getting bronze in both 2018 and 2019.
Now, Anderson did win big air silver at the 2018 Winter Olympics, so she is certainly capable of taking the crown at X Games. Her competition Thursday will include reigning Olympic gold medalist Anna Gasser, however. The Austrian star won big air Aspen gold in 2018 and silver in 2017 but sat out the 2019 competition because of injury.
Reigning X Games Aspen big air champ Laurie Blouin of Canada is back to defend her title, as is last year’s silver medalist, New Zealand teen Zoi Sadowski-Synnott. The 2020 field also includes a trio of Japanese riders, led by Reira Iwabuchi, who won silver in 2018. Rounding things out is American Julia Marino, who has seven X Games medals between Aspen and Norway, including Aspen slopestyle gold in 2017.
Finals: Saturday, 11 a.m.
2019 podium: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (gold), Hailey Langland (silver), Enni Rukajarvi (bronze)
The slopestyle field includes some of the same stars from big air, such as Anderson, Gasser, Marino and Sadowski-Synnott. This has long been an event owned by Anderson, so she should be the favorite despite stiff competition. Anderson is the two-time reigning Olympic slopestyle champion, if that means anything.
Of course, Sadowski-Synnott is the reigning X Games champion and one of the sport’s rising superstars. The only reason Sadowski-Synnott even competed in slopestyle last year — it was her first time at X Games — was because Anderson pulled out after a gnarly crash in big air two days earlier. The Kiwi stepped in as the alternate and ended up winning the contest.
Langland and Rukajarvi both are back looking for a return to the podium. Langland won big air gold in Aspen in 2017, although she’s not competing in the event this year. Finland’s Rukajarvi is an X Games veteran with five total medals, including slopestyle gold in 2011 as an X Games rookie.
Finals: Saturday, 8:45 p.m.
2019 podium: Chloe Kim (gold), Queralt Castellet (silver), Cai Xuetong (bronze)
Again, there is no Chloe Kim, and that’s significant as she currently is the unquestioned best female halfpipe rider in the world, and probably ever. Kim won X Games Aspen gold the past two years, her last defeat at Buttermilk coming when she won bronze in 2017. That winter it was Elena Hight, now retired from the halfpipe, who won gold. China’s Cai Xuetong won her lone silver that year.
So, whoever wins gold on Saturday will be a fresh face atop the X Games Aspen podium. California’s Maddie Mastro should be the unquestioned favorite, as she’s pushed women’s halfpipe snowboarding nearly as much as Kim in recent years (see above video of her at the U.S. Open last year). Mastro’s Aspen bronze in 2018 is her lone medal here, but chances are she adds to it this week.
Steamboat native Arielle Gold, a two-time silver medalist in Aspen, will be in the mix, as will Spain’s Queralt Castellet, the reigning X Games silver medalist, and Xuetong. The rest of the field is made of relative newcomers who will be looking to make a quick name for themselves with the spotlight on them for the first time.