Japan and USA dominate halfpipe qualifying at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ
The elite of the snowboarding world were in action in Cardrona Alpine Resort’s 22ft Olympic superpipe today as the qualifying rounds of the men’s and women’s snowboard Halfpipe World Cup got underway.
American riders claimed three of the six available finals spots in the 30-strong women’s heat with Maddie Mastro the top scorer (93.00), Kelly Clark third (87.50) and Chloe Kim fourth (86.50).
Mastro, awarded for the good amplitude of her run which consisted of back-to-back 720s, a crippler as well as back-to-back 540s said: “I couldn’t be happier. I’m happy to put it all together especially in the first contest of the season. It’s important to start the season off on the right foot. It really sets the tone for the rest of the Olympic year.”
With just five months to go until the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, the 2017 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ World Cup fields have been stacked with the best in the business.
“It never gets easy no matter how many times you do this,” stated three-time Olympic medallist Kelly Clark who has been travelling to New Zealand to compete since 2002.
“I’m really thankful to put down two runs and make it to finals,” said Clark. “It’s hard in September to go zero to a hundred to be full contest ready. It’s really nice just to knock the rust off and see my level is at a high level at this time of year. It’s just a great way to start the season.”
France’s Mirabelle Thovex separated the US contingent as the second highest qualifier with a score of 91.25, with Japan’s Hikaru Oe fifth (82.25) and reigning world champion Xuetong Cai sixth (79.75).
The 42 male riders competed across two heats with Raibu Katayama (JPN, 89.00) and Ben Ferguson (USA; 88.00) the top scorers.
The top three riders in each heat directly moved to finals with the next five from each heat contesting semi-finals for the last remaining spots
Securing his ticket for the finals at his first competition of the year straight away, Ben Ferguson was pretty stoked:
“It’s kind of crazy coming here and doing a contest, having to get my feet under me so quick. It just felt good to land a run. I’ve got a couple more tricks up my sleeve, so hoping to amp it up a bit more for finals.”
The judges were impressed by Ferguson’s trick combination and risk taking, dropping in the pipe with a backside 180 to keep on business with a cab double cork 1080 mute, double crippler, backside 360, switch McTwist and a switch alley-oop rodeo.
He and heat two winner Raibu Katayama both stood out from the field by gaining huge amplitude above the pipe.
The Japanese rider raised the bar on trick difficulty, including three 1080s in his run which consisted of a frontside 1080 tail to cab double cork 1080 mute, back-to-back 900s and a frontside double cork 1080 indy to finish things off.
Japanese riders made their presence felt in heat two with Sochi Olympic silver medallist Ayumu Hirano qualifying to finals in third place and Sochi bronze medallist Taku Hiraoka booking a spot in the semi-finals with a fifth-place qualifying score.
Men’s semi-finals and men’s and women’s finals are scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).
Finals are scheduled for 10:15 AM local time (00:15 AM CET). Watch the action on eurosportplayer.com or check the live scoring for women and men.
Competition has been brought forward a day due to heavy snowfalls in recent days and more in the forecast.