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.
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 tomorrow.” 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.
It wasn’t just Chloe Kim causing headaches for competitors in the snowboard halfpipe as Australian Emily Arthur crashed and took a heavy knock on her final run at the Winter Olympics.
Kim was first and daylight second at the Bokwang Phoenix Park ‘pipe on Tuesday, the gulf in her ability compared to the opposition evidenced in her final run in which she logged 98.25 points.
China’s Jiayu Liu was second (89.75) and American Arielle Gold third (85.75). Arthur (11th) had a more literal headache to contend with after she sought to boost her score on her third hit.
She looked to be heading for her top score after a modest 48.25 in her first run and a botched second effort.
But spinning a cab 540 she failed to smoothly deal with the landing and jarred her shoulder and face into the flat centre of the ‘pipe.
She gingerly got up and appeared winded before being assessed by Australian medical staff.
She had a bloody nose and there was also a small cut under her right eye. “Sorry, my head hurts a bit,” she told an over-eager spectator seeking her photo as she was getting assessed.
There appeared to be no signs of concussion and Arthur joined her mother to sit with the spectators in attendance.
“I’m feeling really good,” she said later.
“I took a bit of a crash at the end of my third run. But I’m still so happy to be here and happy I could pull through … everything’s fine and I’m sure I’ll be back on snow in a couple of days”.
It was an extraordinary performance by Kim who’d effectively sealed the deal with her first run of 93.75.
The 17 year-old, who draws enormous support in PyeongChang because her parents are South Korean, got to perform what was effectively a victory lap. She used the moment to perform a Games-first back-to-back 1080s and secure the highest recorded halfpipe score for a woman in Olympic competition.
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