Shaun White qualifies first, Sochi Olympic halfpipe looking better

There was still a kink on the looker’s right wall near the bottom of the pipe as riders dropped in for pipe qualifiers this afternoon but it wasn’t enough to stop anyone from sending it. A little drop in the temperature combined with a heavy dose of salt, water, and a chemical called PDX kept the pipe firm and free of the loose, soft snow that was sucking riders down during practice yesterday, which was good news for the consistency of the walls and flat-bottom. With 39 riders taking two runs over two heats the pipe was about to see a lot of abuse.

In Heat 1 Japan’s Ayumu Hirano wasted no time in posting the top score with a run that included a massive method followed by a frontside 1080 and Cab 1080. As the scores kept coming in it was clear that riders had to go as big as possible on every hit if they wanted one of the top three qualifying spots—the judges were looking for amplitude today. Those top three would move directly to finals and be spared riding again in semifinals. For the rest of the field, those who placed fourth to ninth moved to semis. From the 12 riders in semis the top six will go to finals.

Switzerland’s Christian Haller picked up the second qualifying spot from this heat, kicking his run off with a huge method as Ayumu had done. The rest of his line was standard fare, with a frontside 1080 to Cab 1080, ending with a frontside double cork 1080.

Swiss teammate David Habluetzel picked up the third spot with tricks like a Cab double cork 1080, crippler, and frontside 900.

US rider Greg Bretz spun double corks, 900s, and 1080s on every hit but couldn’t find the amplitude the judges were looking for. He made it to semis though with a score of 71.75 and now has a second chance. Greg beat Shaun White at the start of the season in the 2013 Dew Tour pipe but it doesn’t look like there’s much chance of that happening again at Sochi.

While Heat 1 contained many lesser-known riders, Heat 2 had all the heavies—Shaun White, Switzerland’s Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchiov, Danny Davis, Taylor Gold, and Japan’s Taku Hiraoka. Noticeably absent was Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen who pulled out at the last minute for unknown reasons. This would not be an easy heat to qualify from.

As predicted, Shaun set the bar on his first run with a 22-foot method, far bigger than everyone else. The rest of his run was a showcase of his second-string tricks like a frontside double cork 1080, Cab double cork 1080, frontside 540 stalefish, backside 900, and alley-oop backside rodeo 540. That gave him a 95.75 and the top qualifying score. On his second Shaun tried for a frontside 1440 on his last hit but only came around at 1260, sliding the other 180 degrees around on the ground.

I-Pod, one of Shaun’s main threats, fell on his first run and qualified eighth on his second run with a surprisingly mellow line including a frontside 1080, Cab double cork, and frontside 900.

Guitar hero and man of the people, Danny Davis, swooped up the third ticket to the finals with his signature backside 360 to switch method, Cab 1080, and double crippler. Shaun will still be tough to beat but if Danny can add a little more height to his line in the finals he’ll be a lock for a medal.

Japan’s Taku Hiroka roared into the second qualifying spot by blasting a backside indy, frontside 900, backside 900, and frontside double cork 1080 to round his run out.

Danny_Davis_Sochi_Halfpipe

Danny Davis did a repeat of his X Games winning and qualified third in heat two with a 92.00. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Riders From Qualifiers Advancing To Finals

Heat 1

1. Ayumu Hirano
2. Christian Haller
3. David Habluetzel

Heat 2

1. Shaun White
2. Taku Hiroka
3. Danny Davis

More Sochi 2014 Olympic stories here