The first-ever freestyle skiing halfpipe in Olympics history is in the books, as 12 skiers qualified for the final round in the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi.
Although snowy conditions made it a bit harder for the judges, the athletes themselves didn't seem to have too many difficulties. The announcers made a note that with blurry conditions, some may have trouble seeing the lip of the halfpipe.
In the end, it never seemed to be an issue.
That wasn't the case for the crowd. Rachel Axon of USA Today snapped of a photo of the view fans had at the bottom of the slope, and needless to say, it's a bit obstructed:
Fortunately, the snow relented as the round went on. However, it turned into a rain/snow mix that was more slushy, which made the halfpipe a bit slick, per John Branch of The New York Times:
It's not really snowing at the ski pipe. It's slushing. Really. Slushing. From the sky.— John Branch (@JohnBranchNYT) February 18, 2014
Those wintry conditions didn't stop 12 skiers from posting huge runs and advancing to the next round.
Here are the full results for qualifying.
|2||David Wise||United States||88.40||Q|
|5||Josiah Wells||New Zealand||83.00||Q|
|8||Lyndon Sheehan||New Zealand||80.00||Q|
|10||Beau-James Wells||New Zealand||76.80||Q|
|12||Aaron Blunck||United States||72.00||Q|
|13||Jon Anders Lindstad||Norway||69.00|
|17||Murray Buchan||Great Britain||62.40|
|23||James Machon||Great Britain||52.20|
|25||Kwang-Jin Kim||South Korea||45.40|
|26||Torin Yater-Wallace||United States||39.00|
|27||Peter Crook||British Virgin Islands||25.20|
|28||Lyman Currier||United States||12.60|
|29||Byron Wells||New Zealand||DNS|
Canadian Justin Dorey finished in first place, posting the only score in the 90s among the two heats. After a poor first run, Dorey regained his composure and wowed the judges, who gave him a 91.60:
He was one of three Canadians—Mike Riddle and Noah Bowman being the others—heading to the final round. Canada is one of three countries sending three skiers to the finals. France and New Zealand also cleaned up in the qualifying round.
The United States wasn't quite so lucky.
American David Wise came into the 2014 Games as one of the favorites to win gold in skiing halfpipe, and he duly delivered in the qualifying round.
Unfortunately, another American hopeful, Torin Yater-Wallace, failed to live up to expectations. On his first run, he went for the home run right off the bat but fell, settling for a 7.00.
Luckily, Yater-Wallace had a second chance to make things right and get into the final.
It was the same story, though, for the 18-year-old. Up until the end of the run, Yater-Wallace put together a great program. He hit a couple of big moves and stuck the landings. On his last jump, though, he stumbled as he hit the snow and ever so slowly fell back to the earth:
Torin Yater-Wallace falls oohhhh so slowly onto his backside on his last hit of second run. That will cost him a spot in the final. Ooof.— John Branch (@JohnBranchNYT) February 18, 2014
In the end, Yater-Wallace would finish with a 39.00, good for 26th.
He remained humble on Twitter in defeat:
Lyman Currier's fate was even worse.
He wrecked on both runs as well, but on his second, the 19-year-old landed awkwardly and looked to have seriously hurt his knee, per Powder Magazine:
Lyman Currier goes down after attempting a double and holds his knee. Skis down gingerly and his Oly run ends. Tough way to go out.— Powder (@PowderMagazine) February 18, 2014
Currier was in visible anguish on his way down the slope, per BuzzFeed Sports:
The pained face of Lyman Currier obscured by the snow after what looked like a possible serious knee injury. pic.twitter.com/pEN9MUxrqq— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) February 18, 2014
At least the United States also has Aaron Blunck heading into the final in addition to Wise. The irony during the second heat was that the more success Currier or Yater-Wallace had on their second runs meant that Blunck almost certainly would have been bounced from the top 12.
As ESPN's Alyssa Roenigk pointed out, the underdogs have reigned so far in the Olympics. Perhaps Blunck is the next in line:
The final begins a little later on, and it will be fascinating to see who can put it all together for one great run and captivate the Sochi crowd. There's a ton of talent among the 12 skiers in the final round, so it won't be easy.
If not Blunck, then the U.S. will be hoping that at least Wise can help bring home some plaudits and pad the Americans' medal tally.