American Domination | Men’s 2018 Olympic Ski Halfpipe Qualification Results and Report
Team USA launch their push for a clean sweep of the medals in men's halfpipe skiing
The results from the men’s ski halfpipe qualifications are in, and the Americans have laid down the gauntlet for finals after USA’s Aaron Blunck, Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace finished in first, second and third.
Rather than the Canadians, it was the New Zealanders that followed the Americans in after, with Wells brothers Byron and Beau-James Wells sending it big and qualifying in fourth and fifth place.
It was an event which was categorised by crashes and mistakes for the first half of the field. Eight skiers from the first 11 either crashed out hard or made a big mistake. This was something that set the bar for the qualifier and lead to a situation where a score in the high 60s or low 70s would get you into the finals.
"The fact that Team USA were able to take the three top spots in qualifying without David Wise filling any of them is testament to just how strong this team is"
Indeed, American favourite and defending Olympic champion David Wise bailed on his first run and took it easy on his second to make sure he put down a score a 79.6. It wasn't a huge score and not what David would have wanted before the event, but he's in the final - even if it does mean he might have to change his game plan for it.
Aaron Bluck also crashed out on run one, but a stylish second run heavy on spins was enough to bag him a 94.4 and send him into first.
Torin Yater-Wallace was the first favourite to stick a big score on run one, bagging an 89.6 which allowed him to then slip, slide and style his way down run two with qualification already in the bag.
His good friend and fellow US team mate Alex Ferreira followed him and went even better shortly after though. He was late with some grabs but stuck a big run for a score of 92.60 which held out until Blunck's winner.
The Canadian’s were also on form, and possibly in parts underated, with Mike Riddle scoring 82.20 and Noah Bowman scoring a 77.20 - which Woodsy in BBC commentary said "he thought was better than Aaron Blunck's run".
They’ll be desperate not to let the US away with a clean sweep of the medals at the final, which takes place tomorrow on 21 February at 11:30am local time in South Korea or 2:30am in the UK.
Team GB had three athletes in action in qualifying - Murray Buchan, Xander Glavatsky-Yeadon and Peter Speight.
The format of the Olympic halfpipe qualification sees each skier do two runs down the slope (with only their best score counting), and the best 12 skiers qualifying for the finals.
Unfortunately none of the British boys were able to qualify for finals this time around.
Murray Buchan was the only Brit to land his first run - and he did so with style. There was a big 900 to start and from there the run included a left five, a double flair, a right 720, a second double flair and more. It scored a 66.
On his second run Murray was the last man down the pipe and just had to up his score a couple of marks to qualify. He landed his run again - and we thought it looked cleaner - but was devastatingly marked down for missed grabs and scored 65.4, missing out on finals by just 2.6 points.
Xander unfortunately bailed out on both runs, and after also crashing on run one, Pete Speight was able to stick a second run including back to back 720s and back to back 900s which scored 64.60.
The FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup series has had five stops for halfpipe so far in the 17/18 season and Americans have won four of them - David Wise has taken two of those FIS gold medals and Alex Ferreira has taken one gold and two silvers.
David Wise also won the men’s halfpipe at the 2018 X Games, and when you add Aaron Blunck, the 21 year old who won the 2017 X Games halfpipe and the current world champion, it’s a hell of a formidable line up from the Americans. The fact that Team USA were able to take the three top spots in qualifying without David Wise filling any of them is testament to just how strong this team is.
The rest of the field challenged the idea at the qualifier that this event was just about North America though.
Byron Wells from New Zealand stuck an 88.6 which oozed style. It was a ski run for skiers and one that challenged the idea you have to spin for days to succeed in halfpipe.
Byron's brother Beau-James Wells put down two great runs as well - first scoring 86.2 and then going on to bag an 88.2 with his second run - after telling Woodsy to shoutout the UK grime scene for him from the commentary box; a great way to win over any British viewer.
The French will have hope that their men can bother the favourites too. Kevin Rolland is famous for his style and experience in the sport. He's got a bunch of medals to his name, and his first run of 87.80 was strong (and enough to give him a training run on the second), but he seemed to leave the pipe with an injury to his left hip after a shallow landing on one particular hit. It'll be interesting to see if that is still bothering him come finals.
His French compatriot Thomas Krief is actually the only man from outside of North America to win a halfpipe stop on the FIS tour this year, and the wildcard pick will be looking to put a cat amongst the pigeons after scraping through qualifying with a score of 74.8.
Krief went big on his second run - possibly bigger than you should go in qualifying - and crashed out on his second run, so it was a nervous wait for him but he did indeed make it through.
The North Americans have been running rampant on the halfpipe so far though. Chloe Kim and Shaun White cleaned up for the American’s in the halfpipe snowboarding, and the results of the women's ski halfpipe Olympic finals showed Canadian Cassie Sharpe at the top as well.
Could America showcase their dominance in the pipe even further in the halfpipe finals tomorrow? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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