After Wednesday’s explosive slopestyle action, all eyes were on the halfpipe in Vail, Colorado yesterday as the men’s and women’s semi-finals went off.
In the women’s event, Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Clark absolutely killed it in a pipe that she called “perfect”, posting two monster runs that blew most of her rivals out of the water.
Kaitlyn Farrington, the winner in Sochi, unfortunately couldn’t hold on to either of her runs and failed to qualify through to the final. Meanwhile neither 13-year-old prodigy Chloe Kim nor 2006 Olympic gold medallist Hannah Teter could trouble Clark at the top of the leaderboard.
In fact the only person who gave her any pause for thought was Spain’s Queralt Castellet, who’s first run score of 82 gave her an early lead and kept her in the top spot until – her safety run complete and her place in the finals already secure – Kelly came out all guns blazing on run number two.
While Kelly’s dominance was perhaps to be expected, the men’s competition threw up a few more surprises. While the three most-talked about pipe riders around – Shaun White, Ayumu Hirano and Iouri Podladtchikov – all failed to show, there were still some big names in the field.
While Kelly’s dominance was perhaps to be expected, the men’s competition threw up a few more surprises.
But surprisingly several of them – including Danny Davis and Scotty Lago – failed to qualify through to the finals. Danny stacked his second run and after playing it relatively safe on his first found himself out of the running.
Greg Bretz also failed to make it through, as did Scotty James and Ryo Aono although thankfully Whitelines favourite Kent Callister did qualify – whipping out the first-hit method that made the Olympic pipe events for us.
So if all of these giants fell, then who came out on top? Well, that honour went to Yiwei Zhang, the Chinese rider. A rising force on the WST circuit for the past couple of seasons Yiwei stepped it up a gear here, cranking out one of the most spin-heavy runs we’ve ever seen (well, outside of Louie Vito’s) and going massive to boot.
As commentator Jack Mitrani said: “that was like a finals winning run right there.” It will certainly be interesting to see if Yiwei can keep it up and claim the top prize on Saturday.
burton US Open 2014 Halfpipe semi-final results:
1. Kelly Clark (USA) 87.53
2. Queralt Castellet (ESP) 85.40
3. Chloe Kim (USA) 78.83
4. Hannah Teter (USA) 74.08
5. Sophie Rodriguez (FRA) 72.90
6. Rana Okada (JPN) 72.78
1. Yiwei Zhang (CHN) 93.00
2. Taylor Gold (USA) 84.38
3. Ben Ferguson (USA) 81.85
4. Gabe Ferguson (USA) 80.50
5. Jake Pates (USA) 79.63
6. David Habluetzel (SUI) 78.80
7. Louie Vito (USA) 78.65
8. Taku Hiraoka (JPN) 77.35
9. Kent Callister (AUS) 76.28
10. Christian Haller (SUI) 75.28