THE scene is set for the greatest halfpipe showdown the Winter Olympics has seen with Shaun White, Scotty James and Ayumu Hirano qualifying in the top three places for the snowboard final.
Much has been made of the trio heading into the PyeongChang Games with bitter debates about perfect scores, skewed judging and technique v technicality. But that was cast aside on Tuesday afternoon as the three best riders in the sport laid down markers for the big show.
James, who fired up much of the debate by questioning White’s perfect 100 from a World Cup meet last month before bemoaning some of the scores he received, eased into qualification position with an 89-point first run.
He turned it on with the second.
RIVALS: Shaun White’s praise for Scotty James
Laying on some of his biggest tricks including frontside and backside 1260s, the Victorian raised the bar and took the qualifying lead with a score of 96.75. Two-time Olympic gold medallist White was up to the challenge. His second run scored a 98.5 and there were no complaints from James.
“Absolutely. I expected to Shaun to come out and put a run down like that. I watched his run – it was a good run – it had good amplitude and was pretty flawless,” James said.
For his part White was glad for the challenge.
“I would have loved to have skated into finals on my 93 (points) but everybody started putting it down,” White said.
“I’m like ‘OK, if we’re going there, we’re going there’.” “I think it’s great for the sport and it’s great for a guy like me that needs the motivation – I’m excited for the final.”
Impressive Japanese rider Hirano, who relegated James to X Games silver this year, scored 95.25 for third.
Also into the final is fellow Australian Kent Callister who sneaked into the decider in 12th spot with 77 points.
Nate Johnstone failed to make the cut and finished 22nd.