Ladies' title on the line in World Cup halfpipe finale
It's been a while since the snowboard freestyle World Cup tour stopped by in Japan. Seven years after Gujo-Gifu hosted the last halfpipe competition in the land of the rising sun on January 15th, 2009, Sapporo is bringing back the thrilling discipline on the calendar closing the halfpipe World Cup season with the fourth and final contest whilst facing challenging conditions.
Due to the unpredictable weather situation at site, Local Organisers together with FIS Officials decided to bring the competition one day forward. The qualifiers will now start on Friday, February 12th, 2016 with a total of 23 women and 29 men being ready to drop in.
The main focus will be on the women's event as the race for the title isn't decided yet.
With current World Cup ranking leader Kelly Clark (USA, 2,000) leaving out this winter's last contest, and second ranked halfpipe sensation Chloe Kim (USA, 1,800) heading over to Lillehammer, Norway to lead the US team at the Youth Olympic Winter Games, the pressure is on three-time halfpipe Crystal Globe winner Xuetong Cai (CHN, 1,500).
Coming off strong with a fourth rank finish from Park City, UT the reigning world champion from China needs to place on the podium to earn her career's fourth halfpipe title since 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In the men's event, local hero Ryo Aono (JPN) has already gained a uncatchable lead of 2,500 points with his teammates Raibu Katayama (1,150) and Taku Hiraoka (800) looking good to locking in a Crystal Globe podium sweep for the hosting nation as their strongest rivals from the US aren't at site.
As the weather keeps on changing rapidly in Sapporo right now, qualifiers will take place one day earlier than originally scheduled. Things now kick off on Friday, February 12th, 2016.
Event Officials will make a final call for the time schedule of the finals tomorrow at 4 PM local time.