Fenway Park, Boston’s No. 1 hot spot, turned blustery and bone-chilling cold on Thursday, with temps dipping into the low teens at the start of the World Cup Big Air spectacle that played out on the giant, man-made ski hill inside the century-old ballyard.
But for 18-year-old Julia Marino, from Westport, Conn., freezing cold turned into both a warm reception and a sizzling victory. The 2018 Olympic hopeful captured Big Air Fenway’s women’s snowboard competition with three clean runs, accumulating a final score of 169.25 and finishing ahead of Canadians Jenna Blasman (152.25) and Brooke Voigt (117.75).
It was Marino’s first time in Fenway, even though her father lived here years ago and, she said, a number of relatives still live in the area. Late to arrive here on Wednesday, she stepped inside the park for the first time on Thursday, only hoping to build on her tour experience with what she figured would be a few practice runs.
As it turned out, she entered the finals ranked second overall through the qualifying runs, then took the lead right away in the finals and held on for the win before a hearty, shivering crowd of 11,786 (roughly half capacity for the event).
“I was so stoked,’’ said Marino, who previously had only walked by Fenway when visiting relatives. “I was so happy actually to be able to put down my runs and win. This is an amazing place to have a snowboarding contest. It’s definitely the coolest, most creative place to have a contest because it’s so unique. There’s never been anything like this. It’s just a big jump in the middle of a baseball stadium and that’s pretty cool to say.’’
On the men’s side, US veteran boarder Chas Guldemond (170.00) finished third behind the pair of top-ranked Canadians, with Max Parrot (183.50) finishing easily ahead of Michael Ciccarelli (174.00). The title already in his grasp, Parrot finished the night’s entertainment with a clean, basic ride, hitting cleanly in a temperature that bottomed out at 12 degrees.
Guldemond, the showman of the bunch, whipped up the crowd in the moments leading to his final ride, standing at the start line atop of the 14-story structure and waving his arms to whip up crowd excitement. He then stuck a clean landing for what secured the No. 3 slot in the Grand Prix tourney.
Like Babe Ruth, said Guldemond, he called his shot before the final run.
“I was soaking in the experience,’’ said Guldemond. “It’s not going to last forever. I am 28 years old and I am trying to give back to the sport. I was thinking, ‘How can I get the crowd riled up?’ So I called my shot, kinda like Babe Ruth. It was a sick experience.’’
With the boarding competition complete, Big Air wraps up at Fenway Friday night with the extreme skiing competition, to be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, beginning at 8:30 p.m. NBC will carry a highlight show on Saturday, airing at 5 p.m.
Marino, who will compete next in Quebec, held the lead after two jumps with a score of 162.75 in the best-of-three-ride competition. She then scored an 82.00 on her final ride, improving to 169.25, and then Blasman, the No. 1 seed, failed to catch her with her final jump.
“A lot of my cousins live here, so I’ve been to the city many times,’’ said Marino, who hopes to compete for Team USA at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. “I’ve walked by Fenway Park a ton, so to be like walking past there and then now to be snowboarding on a big jump in the baseball stadium is pretty cool. I will remember it always.’’
With the wind whipping, especially atop the towering structure, a number of the women could be seen holding on to a railing to secure themselves prior to inching over the start line. Both the low temps and cutting wind were factors to contend with, said Marino.
“Yeah, for sure,’’ she said. “At the top of the jump, the drop-in, there was so much wind . . . it was very windy, got the nerves going there, made it scary. The good thing was, at the jump, it wasn’t as windy there . . . it was more of an intimidation wind at the top. The jump was way mellower, so that was good . . . and yes, it was very cold.’’
Cold to the core. But all forgotten in the warm glow of victory, for Marino the women’s Big Air Bambino.
“My initial thought coming here, coming with my coach, was just to get in the car and come here,’’ she said. “We were just thinking, ‘All right, let’s come to Boston and just hit the scaffolding for practice, so you can say you’ve hit a Big Air scaffolding and get used to it for other Big Airs to come. But when I got in, it just changed the entire plan. I was just so kind of thrown off, but also feeling ready for it . . . definitely nervous, but I am just so happy for everything that happened since I got here.’’