Six girls and ten boys ready to battle for the halfpipe title
It's been an impressive show which the halfpipe specialists pulled off yesterday during the qualifiers for the snowboard halfpipe event at the FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships.
It all kicked off with the ladies qualifiers in the early morning when 22 girls dropped in the Kreischberg pipe to determine the six happy finalists for the three-run-finals scheduled for tonight at 6 PM.
With a bunch of big names in the field, a tight battle for the top-6 spots emerged with French young gun Clemence Grimal impressing the judges the most under a blue bird sky.
The 2014 Olympian who had placed on the podium only once in her so far 14 World Cup starts had a perfect start at her first ever World Championships earning the top score of 90.00 for her backside air to back-to-back 540s, frontside 720 and cab 360, all executed with some decent air time.
Following up the 20-year-old as second best qualifier was three-time halfpipe crystal globe winner Xuetong Cai from China who came close to Grimal with 88.50 for her back-to-back 540s, backside air, back-to-back 720s and air to fakie.
2010 Olympic Champion and 2014 Silver medallist Torah Bright then opened the day for a stunning Australian performance placing third with 86.75 for her backside 540 to air to fakie, cab 720, frontside 540 and an alley-oop.
Pumped by her teammates performance in the women's field, Kent Callister and Scotty James even upped the ante.
Both riders from down under ruled their qualifier heats becoming the odds-on favourites for Gold.
James, the reigning halfpipe world cup title champ, wasn't impressed by the flat light during qualifier heat 1 stomping a cab 1080 double cork to frontside 1080, switch air to fakie, frontside 900 double crippler and a backside 900.
Earning the day's high score of 92.25 he edged off Swiss talents David Habluetzel (88.00 for cab 720 to frontside 1080 double cork, cab 1080 double cork, backside 540 and frontside 900) and Christian Haller (86.75 for backside 540 to frontside 1080 double cork, cab 720 and back to back 1080's) to the second and third qualifier spot in heat 1.
In the second men's heat Kent Callister threw down a stunning run consisting of a double crippler to backside 900, frontside 1080, cab 1080 double cork and a frontside 720 to lead his heat with 91.00 ahead of Jan Scherrer from Switzerland (cab 1080, double crippler, backside 900, frontside 1080 and cab 720) as well as Olympic Bronze medalist from Sochi Taku Hiraoka (JPN, 84.75).
Sochi winner Iouri Podladtchikov just sneaked through to the finals as fifth after sitting on the bubble for a long time.
The Russia-born Swiss completed the outstanding result of his home country (four of four riders in the finals) edging off Finnish ripper Markus Malin by 0.50 points out of the finals.