Onozuka and Kenworthy lead halfpipe qualification
Mammoth Mountain, USA – With the second day in a row of quality weather greeting athletes on Thursday morning, halfpipe qualifiers at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix/World Cup went off without a hitch, and at the end of the day Ayana Onozuka (JPN) and Gus Kenworthy (USA) lead their respective ladies' and men's fields.
After a fresh cut on Wednesday night, Mammoth's pipe was in excellent condition on Thursday morning, and the solid amplitude and huge variety tricks thrown down by the top six ladies was testament to that.
Onozuka, last season's halfpipe crystal globe winner, rode with her typically impressive brand of smooth, lofty tricks, and looked at ease on her way to the top spot with a score of 90.00. She was challenged, however, by Maddie Bowman (USA), whose second hit corked 900 and multi-directional spins earned her a score of 88.2 on her second run.
Third on the day for the ladies' went to Cassie Sharpe (CAN), whose signature back-to-back flares remains one of the best 1-2 punches in the ladies' field.
On the men's side, Gus Kenworthy lead a charge of US skiers who took the top four qualifying spots. With three double-corks and a flat 540 Japan that nearly put him into orbit, Kenworthy's second run score of 94.60 was just enough to put him ahead of his countryman David Wise.
“Today went really well for me,” said Kenworthy after qualifiers, “I was happy with my first run but I kinda dragged my hand on my last landing and my score came in a lot lower than I wanted it to. So going into second run I just knew I had to step it up, go as big as I could, put a third double in there and I landed it and it went well. I feel really good.”
Wise, with his pair of double-corked 1260s, nailed an impressive first run that garnered him a score of 93.20. However, Wise crashed hard on his second run and, though he skied out of the pipe under his own power, he was transported to hospital for evaluation. It is unlikely he will ski in Friday's finals.
Third for the men went to 19-year-old Aaron Blunck (USA), with a score of 91.80, while Alex Ferreira rounded out the US qualifying siege with a score of 90.60.
In an effort to avoid a system of bad weather scheduled to move into the Mammoth Mountain area on Friday, the jury has rescheduled halfpipe finals to the early morning on Friday, with ladies' finals slated to begin with their first run at 8:45 PST, followed by the men's first run immediately after, at 8:55.