“Man is the only creature that can purposely make joyful happenings in such a cold place on a cold day.” said Takeshi Hosomi of “ELLEGARDEN“, one of the live performers of this event. Tens of thousands of spectators who had already gotten excited by the first hot performance by “10-FEET” and snowboarder jumps shouted more and more, and reached its peak with the Superfinal that followed. It was exactly “the hot night in sub-zero tempretures” that happened in Sapporo in January.

TOYOTA BIG AIR” is one of world biggest Snowboad Straight Jump Contests with the crown of TOYOTA, organized by HTB (Hokkaido Television Broadcasting). It is a big stage where the top, professional riders in the world play an exciting game, and also a dream for Japanese riders who can participate in by winning the preliminary contest. This “TOYOTA BIG AIR” that had left a lot of historical scenes for the snowboard field since 1997 and has kept growing every year as a spectacular event right under the wintery sky to which everyone paid attention and not only to stay in a snowboard contest. It has come finally to the tenth anniversary this year.

I sent to SHIFT readers here because the “Man’s feat” the same as the “ELLEGARDEN”s word was seen in the entire “TOYOTA BIG AIR” event. And because I was really attracted by riders’ “power of expression” and “Art of the moment” in sticking to each sense of values even though the result of the match was also important for them

On January 28th, the snow had repeated falling and stopping since the morning. Before arriving the entrance of the stadium, the jumping venue of about 38m in height (equal 12F of a building) jumped into our eyes. The diagonal degree of 47 were seen almost squarely when looking closer. There were people who formed a long line at the entrance before opening time during the snowstorm.

The contest started after four o’clock in the evening when the jumping venue was lit up vividly. The place opened at one o’clock, however, and visitors could enjoy watching public practice, booths, attraction, and live acts. The time was good to slowly improve the expectation in front of the jumping venue.

A booth by Miwa Yokoyama “TGMU” who is familiar at SHIFT presented face painting. Visitors could select cute motives prepared or ask to make their original. The petit-art indispensable for festival was very popular among those piling up feelings for Superfinal. There was the warmth of the smile in the coldest booth.

As a memorial contest on the 10th anniversary, “TOYOTA fan event” had been held simultaneously with the opening in the TOYOTA booth. Visitors enjoyed the lot association to participate with the applied key word in 4 kinds of vehicles exhibited. There were lots of people here and there who had the premium they wanted.

The snow had repeated falling and stopping. The number of visitors had gradually increased, and some of them began to gather in front of the stage next to the jumping venue. When the time for beginning the contest got closer and the performance by “10-FEET” from Kyoto had started, all the people there were united for the first time since the opening. “10-FEET” who were made a legend last year having their performance in a blizzard came again this year with the original theme song for the “TOYOTA BIG AIR” 10th anniversary. The appearance of vocal TAKUMA this time was just in a tank top! He made everyone in an uproar, and the waves of people made it seem like the earth was moving. “TOYOTA BIG AIR” had started here!

After the performance, “10-FEET” continuously called “TOYOTA!”, and tens of thousands of people responded saying “BIG AIR!” getting into the rhythm. It continued several times, and having the biggest and last call of “BIG AIR!” as a trigger, two big screens next to the jumping venue spouted with fire works. A total 16 of invited riders and four Japanese riders who won the preliminary contest the day before, descended brilliantly from an upper start gate, colored with the introduction film on the screen, the sound, and the light. What do riders see in scenery from this start gate to where only handful riders can reach? It was a moment when everyone’s expectations rose the most.

First of all, 16 players develop the qualification round. Two jumps are judged with the best count method. The highest score of each air is 300 point in total full marks. Grading is done by overall impression that contains the mid-air form and the landing posture. That is, height, beauty, and difficulty are equally important, and it is not just riders has to focus on one of them. This is the reason that it can be the momentarily “Art” in the air with their personal expressions. As for the spectators, it was so. They didn’t really focus on who won, but simply on how great jumps they could see. They got excited and sent the ovation to any rider who showed great air, and felt bitter seriously to any rider who failed. Of course, the riders practically fight against other riders, but in fact, it might be nothing other than an extreme challenge to their own “work”. However, the chance to get the stage of the challenge will dissapper if not winning through. After the fierce battle, eight riders won to the following quarterfinal round. They left each drama in the severity of battle with just seconds.

Therefore, the riders are sticking to live musicians in a common feature of heating people up with their own expression, I thought while shaking to the second performance by “ELLEGARDEN“. Different from “10-FEET”s impact performance, “ELLEGARDEN” presented a more settled atmosphere. It was a great direction of the whole event to put their performance order in this way.

The venue was extremely close to the climax when the four riders were decided to apply the next semifinal round. The sound of grand fireworks of winter was inhaled into the snow, and favored its visual oppositely. The game became a Man on Man Tournament method after the first round had passed, and riders had been fighting one to one. Four riders who won through were dignified, and not amusing whoever would win; Nicolas MULLER who is called precision machine of Switzerland, Takato TANIGUCHI who draws out “Masakari-Air”, last year’s King of Air with a superb talent Eero ETTALA, and a Canadian superstar Trevor ANDREW. It was surprising that they challenged more and more to the advanced jump resolutely even in the top round. Spectators were moved by their possitive and brave attitude.

Therefore, at the superfinal, it is needless to say that the highest applause was sent both to Nicolas MULLER who won the superfinal finishing off with the highest score in this contest, and Eero ETTALA who attracted people without defending to the last minute. And, the applauding was turned to the whole “TOYOTA BIG AIR” with the riders about all.

“TOYOTA BIG AIR” was broadcasted with a nationwide television net. It could not be missed to see the big air with a perfect angle and proper editing. However, you cannot feel this lively tension or excitement without feeling the coldness, waves of people, and time. Looking at their jumps at the venue, I really wanted to jump too. That is not to say that I wanted to try the actual jumping, but I felt anyone could fly even in different ways with the expression, positive and brave attitude like the riders showed, then hoped to be so.

This venue “Makomanai Open Stadium in Sapporo” was once used as a skating rink place for the Winter Olympics in 1972. Similarly, the Winter Olympic year has come in 2006. I would like to enjoy the hottest scence unfolded in the cold place Torino too.

Date : Saturday 28th of January, 2006
Place : Makomanai Open Stadium, Sapporo, Japan

Text: Yurie Hatano
Photos: Hiroshi Kotake

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