Last Saturday saw the second Olympic qualifying halfpipe competition go down under bluebird skies at Copper Mountain. Much like the slopestyle finals the previous day, it attracted many of the world's best halfpipe riders hoping to improve both their World Snowboard Tour and FIS rankings at the same time. If you were a little unclear as to the Olympic qualification process for halfpipe in the run up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, here's a quick summary:
- Competitors earn FIS points by competing at FIS Olympic qualifying events between July 2012 and January 19th 2014.
- The top 35 men and the top 30 women will qualify for Olympic halfpipe.
- How many riders each country can send to each event depends on how many from each country are in the top 30 at the end of the qualification period, up to a maximum of four riders.
- Therefore, for both of our halfpipe contenders (Ben Kilner and Dom Harrington) to qualify, they must get as high as possible in the FIS rankings by January 19th 2014.
Rather unluckily both of our riders were drawn together in heat two and unfortunately neither were able to get past the qualification stages. 2010 Olympian Ben Kilner finished up in 15th (61st overall) and Dom Harrington snuck in in 9th place (30th overall). A few other big names made it into the top 8 including Luke Mitrani and Louie Vito for Team America and Arthur Longo for the Euros. Interestingly there was no sign of Shaun White at this event. Perhaps he's so confident that he'll do well enough that he's only going to rock up at some of the later events? Lets be honest though, there's no way he's not going to qualify for the Olympics now is he?
So, onto the finals. Now our Antipodeon brethren may not have done anywhere nearly as well as they were expecting to in the 2012 summer olympics but if the results from Saturday's pipe comp at Copper is anything to go by, they're on one heck of a redemption mission. Of the top eight women who battled it out in the two-run finals, it was reigning Olympic gold medallist and Aussie Torah Bright who posted the highest score of 85.75 with a run that included a massive frontside air, super tech air to fakie, cab 720 and backside rodeo 540 alley-oop melon. Kelly Clark was hot on her heels with 82 points and stomped a huge frontside 900, a backside 540 and frontside and cab 720s. Queralt Castellet from Spain rounded out the podium in third place.
And as if one Aussie taking gold wasn't enough, Nathan Johnstone, who we've heard of, but is hardly a name that we expect to see beating the likes of Luke Mitrani and Louie Vito, dropped in hot and got it done in the men's comp. Nathan went bigger than the everyone else with a huge backside air and a load of 1080's and it was great to see the judges rewarding his amplitude so highly, rather than simply counting the number of double corks. A somewhat surprising result in an otherwise US-heavy top 10. Luke Mitrani bagged second place with a run that included a double michaelchuck and a cab double 1080, while Louie Vito landed in third with his three double cork varieties.
With many other big name pipe riders in absence from this event, it'll be interesting to see who turns up for the next one at Stoneham, Canada in a week's time.
US GRAND PRIX HALFPIPE 2013 COPPER RESULTS
1. Nathan Johnstone (AUS)
2. Luke Mitrani (USA)
3. Louie Vito (USA)
1. Torah Bright (AUS)
2. Kelly Clark (USA)
3. Queralt Castallet (ESP)