Sochi Olympics: Events debut day before opening ceremoniesThere were thrills, spills and plenty of nerves as slopestyle snowboarding opened competition at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, and while much of the focus had been on athlete safety most came away unscathed at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
By: Reuters report, Reuters
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — There were thrills, spills and plenty of nerves as slopestyle snowboarding opened competition at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, and while much of the focus had been on athlete safety most came away unscathed at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
All eyes were on the course following Wednesday’s withdrawal of American Shaun White, citing safety concerns, and the frightening crash that left Norway medal hope Torstein Horgmo with a broken collarbone.
But if any of the snowboarders were holding anything back on the sport’s Olympic debut they did not show it, as they launched themselves spinning through the air to impress the judges.
Australian Scotty James was left clutching his ribs after a heavy fall, and Norway’s Kjersti Buaas had to seek medical attention following a wipeout on her final run in the women’s second heat.
But overall, competitors were pleased with the course.
“It’s demanding, but it works. It’s not a bad course,” Norway’s Torgeir Bergrem, who slipped on both runs, said. “They’re not the most ‘poppy’ jumps — we’re used to getting a little help with our tricks — but you have to do everything on your own here, so I guess that’s the main difference that people are struggling with.”
Bergrem said that doubts over course safety expressed earlier in the week had been dealt with after organizers trimmed the height of some of the jumps.
“It’s not dangerous at all, it’s a regular course,” he said. “The jumps are regular size. The rails are good. It’s fine.”
With slopestyle qualifying starting on Thursday, it was the first time in 30 years that competition began ahead of a winter Games opening ceremony.
Games officials had been racing to complete preparations in time, but as Britain’s Billy Morgan took off to give slopestyle its official debut, volunteers were still hammering poles into the ground to secure crash barriers.
Morgan was so focused on his run that he was not even aware he was about to make snowboarding history.
“It was pretty cool, I didn’t realize until one of the other athletes told me at the top,” he said. “I didn’t think about it until the last minute. I had fun and it was really good.”
Eight automatic spots in both the men’s and women’s final were up for grabs on Thursday, with the second heats delivering the day’s most breathtaking action.
Austria’s Anna Gasser showed no signs of nerves as she put in a sizzling run to score 95.50 to book her place in the final.
“I was so nervous, I’ve never been that nervous in my life before. I’m straight to the finals, that’s the best thing I could wish for,” she said with a beaming smile. “It’s the Olympics, and back home it’s the first time it (slopestyle) is on TV back home, so I knew all my friends were watching.”
In the second heat of the men’s competition, Canada’s Maxence Parrot came out on top after a frenzied second run, which saw the lead change hands several times.
The men’s final is on Saturday and the women’s the following day.
Russians In Pole Position For Team Figure skating Glory
SOCHI, Russia — A rousing performance by world pairs champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put hosts Russia in pole position to win the first figure skating team event gold medal at the Winter Olympics on Thursday.
With the event making its Olympic debut at the Sochi Games, Volosozhar and Trankov were foot perfect with their interpretation of Aram Khatchaturian’s “Masquerade Waltz.”
The Russian pair blew away nearest rivals Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada by more than 10 points with a score of 83.79.
With fellow countryman Yevgeny Plushenko pulling off a clean skate to finish second in the men’s event earlier on Thursday, the host nation led the team standings with 19 points.
At the halfway point of the team short programs, Russia, Canada, China and Japan occupy the top four spots in the standings, while the United States is in danger of missing the cut for the free skate as they trail in seventh with 10 points.
The team event features 10 nations and each country has one representative competing in men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs and ice dancing. They each perform a short program, after which the top five nations battle it out for the medals by competing in the free skates.
Champion Kearney Heads Moguls Qualifiers
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — Defending champion Hannah Kearney underlined her status as favorite for the women’s freestyle moguls by leading the first 10 qualifiers into the final in the evening twilight at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday.
The 27-year-old American plunged around the bumps and down the 247-meter slope in 30.14 seconds to earn 23.05 points and edge Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who were awarded 22.64 and 22.28 points, respectively, for second and third.
Another American, Eliza Outtrim, qualified in fourth place, but the United States contingent was outnumbered by the Dufour-Lapointe family with eldest sister Maxime also making the top 10 in eighth place.
There was also a place in the final for Japan’s 34-year-old Aiko Uemura, who finished seventh as she started her fifth Olympic campaign. A second qualifying round will take place before Saturday’s final.