BOSTON -- Snowboarder Julia Marino arrived at Fenway Park for the first time on Wednesday with the intention not of seeing her first Red Sox game there but to practice snowboarding off the 140-foot snow ramp set up in center field.
Instead, the 18-year-old Marino stepped in for an injured teammate and on Thursday came out on top in all three runs to win the Polartec Big Air at Fenway, an FIS Snowboard World Cup event, at the famous baseball park. Competing off a scaffolding jump for the first time and in only her second world cup event, Marino tallied 169.25 points, enough to beat out Canadians Jenna Blasman (152.25) and Brooke Voigt (117.75).
“I was just amazed and so happy to be able to put down my runs and win,” she said with a smile. “I was so thrown off (with having to compete unexpectedly), but was feeling ready for it because I was strong in practice. But I was definitely nervous. I wasn’t as relaxed as I normally feel, so it was a little bit more challenging for me to get my head and confidence in there. But after first run I felt more confident.”
The Westport, Connecticut, native said her parents used to live nearby and some of her cousins still do, so she’s been in the Boston area. However, she’d never actually been inside Fenway Park until she arrived with her coach on Wednesday.
But after U.S. Olympian Ty Walker suffered a back injury in training on Wednesday, Marino stepped in, and her entire family was in attendance to support her and literally see her backflip her way to the top of the podium.
“This is the coolest, most creative place to have a contest because it's so unique,” she said. “I’ve walked by Fenway a number of times, so to walk past there and to now be snowboarding on a big jump in the baseball stadium is pretty cool; I’ll remember it always.”
A crowd of 11,786 fans packed Fenway Park, where the snow ramp stretched from what’s typically center field grass to the Red Sox dirt at home plate — and rose three times higher than the iconic Green Monster.
The crowd was treated to another top performance from a New Englander when Chas Guldemond finished third — the top American — on the men’s side. The 2014 U.S. Olympian and New Hampshire native took advantage of the home field advantage. Before his last run of the night, he called his shot at the top of the ramp, mimicking Babe Ruth, and the crowd went wild.
“Being at Fenway and being at the point I’m at in my career, I’m really trying to soak up these experiences,” the 28-year-old Guldemond said. “I’m trying to give back to the sport as much as I can. So many people came out here to support me from the East Coast, so you got to put on a show.”
He added with a laugh, “So how can I get the crowd riled up? Call a shot like Babe Ruth.”
Canada’s Max Parrot — who recently nabbed big air gold at the Winter X Games —won by nailing a few of the most technically difficult jumps, one being a triple-quadruple (three backflips and four complete rotations) that got him the highest run score of the night (96.25, 183.5 overall), and his countryman Michael Ciccarelli placed second with 174 points.
Despite the windy and icy conditions atop the scaffolding, the competitors enjoyed the crowd said the exposure is good for the sport.
“Usually crowds are always spread out, but with all the seats going up (in the stadium) it looks super cool from the top of the scaffolding,” Parrot said. “I was definitely expecting a good show, and that’s what happened. It was really fun; as we were dropping, you could hear the crowd screaming and it’s always a good feeling to hear that.”
Men’s and women’s big air snowboarding will make its Olympic debut at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. For now, Big Air at Fenway is just the third big air stop on the FIS Snowboard World Cup tour and the second stop on the U.S. Grand Prix tour.
“It’s been a tough season for the East Coast,” Guldemond said. “But at least to come here and put on a good show and get people hyped for winter, it will help the skiing and snowboarding industry. … the event was pulled off with flying colors, literally.”