World champs lead the way after halfpipe qualifiers

10 March 2017 18:16
Scotty James was once again going big in the pipe
Scotty James was once again going big in the pipe -
Oliver Kraus

Reigning world champions Xuetong Cai (CHN) and Scotty James (AUS) have notched the biggest scores in today's qualifiers for the Sierra Nevada 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships snowboard halfpipe event.

However, the pack will be reshuffled for tomorrow's finals when riders get ready to battle for gold under the lights in Spain.

In fact, a fierce battle for the world championships title is to expect with nearly all the top competitors having it made into the finals of the best 6 women and 10 men, with no rider clearly dominating the field today.

Especially the girls were on fire under a blue bird sky and temperatures around 10 degrees – which actually forced several fans at the bottom of the halfpipe to watch the entertaining show with their t-shirts off – throwing down runs which gave the judges a hard day of work.

In the end, Cai impressed the most with a frontside 540 to backside 540 as well as back-to-back 720's and a stylish alley oop indy to finish things off earning a score of 94.75.

2013 world champion Arielle Gold (USA) came close with a 92.50 for her backside rodeo 540 to crippler 540 indy, backside 540 tail and back-to-back 720's.

In addition, with Maddie Mastro another US girl looked strong after throwing down a frontside 900 tail to backside air seatbelt grab, crippler 540 indy, backside 540 mute and a frontside 720 mute being given a 92.00.

2015 bronze medallist Clemence Grimal (FRA) and Haruna Matsumoto (JPN) also proceeded to the finals with strong scores of 91.25 and 88.75 respectively.

Hikaru Oe (JPN) took the final spot with a 83.75 edging off Jiayu Liu (CHN), one of the top favourites for the podium, to the seventh rank with the tiny advantage of 0.75.

Over in the men's event, Scotty James kept the momentum from his recent results topping the men's field with a score of 92.25.

The 22-year-old 2017 World Cup title winner underlined his claim for a back-to-back title win by landing a backside 900 mute to frontside double cork 1080 stale, a cab double cork 1080 mute and a frontside 900 melon.

Compared to his competitors, his run might have featured only for hits, but all four were clean and well executed whilst coming along with a massive air time the tall athlete is known for.

But make sure to watch out for Yiwei Zhang (CHN; 90.00) and Olympic bronze medallist Taku Hiraoka (JPN; 87.25), who qualified as respective second and third.

Both definitely have what it takes to deny James his second consecutive title.

While the Chinese top gun, the first to ever land a triple cork in the pipe, started his run off with a backside air to back-to-back double cork 1080's, a double crippler indy and a final backside 900 tail, Hiraoka stomped a frontside 1080 tail to cab double cork 1080 mute, crippler indy, backside 900 mute and a frontside double cork 1080 stale.

But there are even more heavy hitters set to give it a shot for gold, silver and bronze.

While Louie Vito (USA; 84.75) was the fourth best qualifiers, Patrick Burgener (SUI; 82.50) led the whole Swiss squad to the finals featuring the likes of Jan Scherrer (82.25), Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov (81.00) and David Habluetzel (79.50) once again underlining that Switzerland is definitely one of the top two halfpipe countries right now.

Markus Malin (FIN; 76.50) and Ryan Wachendorfer (USA; 76.00) also earned their spots in the finals which is slated to take place tomorrow night at 8 PM CET with quite a bunch of TV stations ready to broadcast the showdown for the 2017 halfpipe world championships title live.

For further information on the TV times click here.

In case you cannot watch the finals, here are the links for live scoring of the women's and men's competition.