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Mark McMorris put down clutch run after falling on this run to make the finals. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Men’s slopestyle semi-final results from Sochi Olympics

Wow, that was a tense semifinal. Only four riders from the field of 21 who dropped in this morning could make the finals this afternoon and every one of them were throwing down to get those spots. By far the most pressure was on Mark McMorris, who came into Olympic slopestyle as the gold medal favorite. After failing to qualify straight to finals on Thursday after some questionable judging he couldn’t afford any mistakes in his riding today. Mark looked so solid on his first run with a Cab hardway 270 to start, and Cab 1260 off the first jump, but he sat as he rode away from his backside triple cork 1440, earning a score of only 55. But with all his medal hopes on the line, Mark came through on his second run to land a Cab double cork 900 to frontside 1080 double cork before absolutely stomping the piss out of his backside triple cork for a score of 89. 25

“A little bit of a rollercoaster it’s been,” Mark said of making the finals. “To get a score that puts me through is just an amazing feeling. I don’t know why the pressure always seems to find me, and I hate it, but as long as I keep performing it’s all good.”

As for his score, Mark still wasn’t satisfied with it. “I did a better top section and the same jump line [as Thursday], perfectly clean and got maybe 0.25 higher,” he said. But now it’s all about the finals anyway, where Mark says he plans to do “what he’s been working on,” hinting that we might see something entirely new in Mark’s run.

As for his broken McRib, he said it was feeling better and better every day but was still going to get it treated before finals.

There are now three Canadians in the finals including Max Parrot, who recently became Mark’s biggest competition, and Seb Toutant.

US rider Sage Kotsenburg also got duly rewarded for his riding today, which was as creative as it was stylish. He made a risky move considering what was at stake, but on his final jib he pulled out a layback 50-50 to backside 180 out. The judges seemed to like what they saw however as Sage continued into his jump line with a Cab 1260 Holy Crail, Frontside 1080 rocket air, and backside double cork 1080 nose to tail grab to crack the 90s by half a point.

“I’m really stoked,” said Sage. “It’s been a really long process and just to be in the finals at the first slopstyle is the coolest thing ever.”

Perhaps the most surprising performance came from England’s Billy Morgan who will be joining teammate Jamie Nicholls in the finals. Billy had a tech run that started with a Cab 270, 270 out and ended with a Cab double cork 900, frontside double cork 1080, and backside triple cork 1440 on the jumps. That gave him the highest score of the semis, a 90.75.

Billy also tried a Cab triple cork off the first jump on his second run but couldn’t land clean. You can bet there are going to be at least two triples going down per run in the finals.

Japan’s Yuki Kadono got the fourth spot after landing a run that included a Cab 1260 and a backside 1260.

For the judges’ part they had tightened up a lot compared to the qualifiers with scores coming in the mid-to low-90s as opposed to the mid-to high-90s as we saw in qualifiers. The judges also did a better job of putting equal emphasis on the rail and jump sections—if a rider didn’t kill it on both, or touched a hand anywhere, they could forget about making the finals. It looked like nothing less than a near-perfect run would do.

Here’s who made it to the slopestyle finals starting at 12:45 p.m. Moscow Time.

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Qualified Riders From Semifinals Advancing To Finals

1. Billy Morgan (England)
2. Sage Kotsenburg (USA)
3. Mark McMorris (Canada)
4. Yuki Kadono (Japan)

They will be joining

Ståle Sandbech (NOR)
Peetu Piiroinen (FIN)
Sebastien Toutant (CAN)
Jamie Nicholls (GBR)
Max Parrot (CAN)
Roope Tonteri (FIN)
Sven Thorgren (SWE)
Gjermund Braaten (NOR)

More Sochi 2014 Olympic stories here