***More Breaking News***
According to the BBC, this morning’s halfpipe qualifiers will take place as scheduled. Phew.
It’s rumoured that the qualification for the men’s halfpipe today will be cancelled due to the pipe not yet being ready. Nike team manager John Weaver said:
— Jonathan Weaver (@Jonathan_Weaver) February 11, 2014
We’re not yet sure how true this is and what effect if will have on the day, but according to Todd Richards there will some sort of decision made by 9.30am GMT.
More to follow…
Now that a big bow has been tied on the first ever Olympic slopestyle, it’s time to shift the focus to the halfpipe. The stunt-ditch is making its fifth appearance at the games, starting with the men’s qualification round tomorrow (Tuesday 11th February) at 10am GMT. However, some of the top riders have gone on record to say that they’re not happy with the pipe as it stands.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, X Games champion Danny Davis made his feelings on the state of the pipe quite clear, calling it “garbage”. He continued:
It’s the Olympics. It should be flawless. What a lame showcase of snowboarding, and what a lame way to treat the athletes.
Meanwhile Torah Bright, the reigning women’s gold medallist from Vancouver 2010, has weighed in as well, saying “It’s brutal, and all you can do is kind of laugh”. Normally the picture of politeness, she was quick to state exactly what she thought had gone wrong:
The people who are constructing the pipe aren’t the greatest at their craft and it makes it challenging for us. No one is able to ride their best today. We’ve had two days of training and you can’t even link a run.
Greg Bretz, a man seemingly not backward about coming forward, agreed with Torah and said that the only way to sort things would be if famed pipe builder Frank Wells “got on a fucking aeroplane” and worked his magic.
This won’t be good news for the team behind the Sochi games, having already come under fire from some quarters for problems with the slopestyle course. While in that instance it was desires for slight changes being blown out of context by an eager media, it seems much more serious this time around.
From what we’ve heard, everyone’s been playing it relatively safe in practice with 9-foot airs – apart from defending champion Shaun White, who’s been regularly boosting 15 feet out. Nick Atkins, Whitelines photographer in Sochi, send us this message:
“I’ve just been at pipe practice. Shaun saying he might not be able to do tricks as it’s a bumpy pipe, and slushy. Going massive though.”
The UK’s Ben Kilner has said that it’s got a good shape on the walls, but is very bumpy on the flat in between. His coach Hamish McKnight has said that they completely reshaped it in the time after Danny and Torah’s statements, and made it a lot wider. It’s still very soft, though, and he reckons that the only solution would be if it rained and then froze overnight. In the current Sochi climate, that’s looking increasingly unlikely.
The International Olympic Committee, who’ve been criticised for awarding the games to a town where the temperature in an average February is around 10 degrees Celcius, may feel some blowback from this too.