Day 1 action for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, got off to a great start with the semifinals for men's snowboard slopestyle.
Only four spots for the final were up for grabs, as eight riders had previously booked their places during Thursday's qualification. That meant there was a ton of pressure heaped upon the 21 participants. With the tiniest slip-up, their Olympic dreams could go up in flames.
This is the first year in which snowboard slopestyle is an Olympic event, so those who don't regularly watch the Winter X Games were treated to new stars in what is an exciting event.
Here are the results from the semifinals of Saturday's snowboard slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
|1||Billy Morgan||Great Britain||90.75||Q|
|2||Sage Kotsenburg||United States||90.50||Q|
|6||Ryan Stassel||United States||83.25|
|7||Chas Guldemond||United States||79.25|
|13||Emil Andre Ulsletten||Norway||56.75|
Mark McMorris Leaves It Late
Many believed that Mark McMorris should have qualified for the final on Thursday, but the judges ended up giving him harsh scores. Saturday was an opportunity for McMorris to set the record straight and leave no doubt as to his place later in the day.
However, the 20-year-old made things extremely difficult for himself.
He earned only a 55.50 on his first run and was visibly dejected once he reached the end of the course, per the Canadian Olympic Team:
It looked as if the fractured ribs he suffered at the X Games in January were giving him problems on the slope. Since McMorris had so little time to recover, he's unlikely to be at 100 percent.
That didn't stop him from pulling out a great second run in order to salvage his Olympic dreams and keep him alive for another round.
McMorris was putting together a solid run and tied everything together nicely with a beautiful triple cork on his final jump for the exclamation point.
An 89.25 on his second run was good enough for third:
As you'd expect, McMorris and his family breathed a sigh of relief, per USA Today's Rachel Axon:
Mark McMorris is in the final. His family shares hugs of relief. #Sochi2014— Rachel Axon (@RachelAxon) February 8, 2014
Billy Morgan, Sage Kotsenburg and Yuki Kadono Are Through to the Final
The other three to make their way to the final later in the day were Great Britain's Billy Morgan, the United States' Sage Kotsenburg and Japan's Yuki Kadono.
Both Morgan and Kotsenburg made it a bit anticlimactic.
Morgan posted the highest score (90.75) after the first run, and he wasn't touched after that. ESPN Snowboarding did a good job recounting what got the Briton to the top of the leaderboard:
billy morgan, wow: back rodeo off cannon, cab triple cork off the pinner jump, fs 1080 double, happy straight air— ESPN Snowboarding (@ESPN_Snow) February 8, 2014
Owen Gibson of The Guardian stated the obvious:
Morgan top of the leaderboard after his first run in the slopestyle snowboarding semi-final. He was, predictably, stoked.— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) February 8, 2014
Kotsenburg made a run at Morgan, with a marvelous 90.50 on his second run, but it wasn't enough for the judges to put up in first. Still, he's the only American in the field for the final:
Sage Kotsenburg is the only American to make the slopestyle final. #Sochi2014— Rachel Axon (@RachelAxon) February 8, 2014
Things weren't quite so easy for Kadono. His 84.75 nearly wasn't enough to see him through. He was done relatively early in the process, so he had to sit back and hope for the best.
Belgium's Seppe Smits made it interesting late, but the judges only gave him an 84.50 on his second run. American Chas Guldemond was the last rider to go, and he impressed many on his final run, leading some to believe that maybe he would overtake Kadono. Only it wasn't to be, and he finished seventh.
Remember the Name: Seamus O'Connor
Seamus O'Connor was the youngest rider in snowboard slopestyle, at 16 years old. Despite his inexperience, the American-born teenager managed to put on a nice show.
His background is a bit unique. His mother is Russian, his father is British, and he was born in the United States. Since his grandparents are Irish, though, he was able to represent Ireland at the Olympics.
O'Connor ended up posting scores of 60.75 and 70.25. Both were vast improvements over his 33.50 and 40.00 on Thursday.
The 16-year-old wowed the fans in attendance with a triple cork that caught the attention of many, including Skyler Wilder of NBCOlympics.com:
O'Connor faltered a bit on the landing, which ended up costing him valuable points. In the end, though, it's unlikely that that alone would have been enough to see him through to the final. But that didn't stop some of the Russian onlookers from being won over, per Nick Hope of the BBC:
Russian fans rise to cheer USA-born teen Seamus O'Connor, who's representing Ireland, as he competes his final run: pic.twitter.com/ZNvuUmXmbq— Nick Hope (@NickHopeBBC) February 8, 2014
While he never threatened to get into the top four, O'Connor made a lot of progress and demonstrated that he'll be one to watch for the future.