Petra Vlhova wins women’s slalom gold
Thanks Beau and good day to you. Let’s head over to the women’s slalom, where world champion Petra Vlhova is in the gold medal position and is guaranteed to win Slovakia’s first alpine medal at a Winter Olympics.
Sara Hector of Sweden, the gold medalist in Monday’s giant slalom, was nailing the second run and seemed as if she might take Vlhova’s lead but then skied off course.
Somehow, somehow(!), Vlhova has found another eight tenths of a second in her second run which is enough to secure the gold. Silver goes to Katharina Liensberger of Austria and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.
The last rider is the USA’s Chase Josey. With a 60.50, he’ll bump former US rider Louis Vito out of the last spot and put three Americans in the final 12.
It looks good. It looks very good.
And it’s just good enough. 69.50. Twelfth.
That’s going to be all for me today. Over to Emma Kemp. Thanks for following along with me on a dramatic day at the Games.
Shaun White qualifies on second run
A score over 73 would get the three-time champion into the final. A 60 might be enough. Once upon a time, that was no problem at all. This time?
He’s had bigger runs in his life, of course. But a frontside 1260 is impressive enough. Quite impressive, say the judges. That’s an 86.25, good for fourth.
Team GB’s Charlie Guest is swatting her way through slalom gates as if perturbed, but she loses most of her momentum on a turn two-thirds of the way down and has to turn nearly 90 degrees to make the next gate. She’s down to eighth, with no shot at the top 10.
Back to snowboard — funny how the Olympic schedule got so busy all of a sudden.
Taylor Gold has indeed clinched qualification before arriving at the top of the pipe. Will he go big or take it easy? Maybe somewhere in between. He showcased the beauty of the chicken wing grab, according to our international-feed commentators, and he did indeed improve by a couple of points to 83.50. Sixth place. Off to the final with you …
Let’s peek in on the women’s slalom, which our Canadian readers will appreciate, because Erin Mielzynski and Laurence St-Germain are second and third. That won’t last, given the 16 outstanding skiers with time advantages to come, but it’s a good start.
Team GB’s Charlie Guest is next up.
You get the sense that these competitors are trying too hard to crack the top 12. Louis Vito is the latest to try a massive trick and miss the landing, and he’ll have a nervous wait as he sits 11th. Germany’s Andre Hoeflich is a little more comfortable in ninth.
Can Ireland’s Seamus O’Connor bump up from 13th? Nope. He doesn’t crash, but he bails out on the run after flailing in the air. He gives shoutouts to San Diego, Ireland and Park City.
Eight riders to go, including Taylor Gold, who may be mathematically certain of qualification by the time he comes up.
Another American will miss out on a halfpipe final. Lucas Foster landed hard on the lip of the pipe, right in the center of the board between his feet. It’s amazing his board is still in one piece.
Reminder: Only one US woman qualified for the women’s halfpipe final. The men may be in the same situation. The days of snowboard sweeps are long gone.
Is the figure skating team event really over? Apparently not. Due to “legal consultation,” the medal ceremony has been postponed.
The medals went to Not Russia, the USA and Japan.
The CBC is wondering if Canada could move onto the podium. Might the USA finally get a gold medal in Beijing?
Slovenian Tit Stante went a long way up. Unfortunately, that’s also a long way down, and he landed badly. It’s a sad ride down to the bottom.
Japan’s Kaishu Hirano also dares to touch the heavens, and he keeps it going. He puts a hand down on a landing later in the run, and that’s enough to keep him out of the 80s. But he improves slightly to 77.25. At eighth place, he’ll be a little nervous but is more likely in than out.
Two Australians in the final! Almost certainly. Valentino Guseli shook off his first-run frustration with high amplitude and smooth landings. The 1260 at the end clinches a score of 85.75, currently fourth.
Before Guseli’s run, Korean teenager Lee Chaeun looked like he was bound for the final until crashing at the very end of the run. He got up with a resigned smile.
The second women’s slalom run is coming up. In this format, the top 30 skiers from the first run are inverted from 30th to 1st, so the last skiers know what they need to do to make the podium. Times are cumulative, of course. I’ll keep an eye on it, but the leaders likely won’t go until this halfpipe qualification is done.
Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer had what seemed to be a middling run last time, but that may have been because he had the misfortune of following James. This time, he lands a 79.25, which is probably enough. Probably. A lot of riders are capable of changing their 15.75s to 85.75s.
Gao Hongbo, who had the strange 15.00 run with no rotations in the first run, passed up his second run. Gu Ao comes up next instead and improves from 50.25 to 58.20. He’s 11th, and that’s not a comfortable place to be.
“Last week, messed around and got a triple-double,” Ice Cube said in the cleaner version of It Was A Good Day.
Ayuma Hirano just messed around and got a 93.25.
It seems the Japanese riders didn’t really care that their qualification is all but assured. Ruka Hirano laid down a run of 87.00.
What will Scotty James do in response? Plenty. It’s the same run through the first three hits, but the last is a promotion from a 1260 to 1440. He playfully rides up to the lip of the pipe and plants himself there at the finish. That’s a 91.25. See you in the final.
Men’s halfpipe qualifying standings after the first run of two (top score counts):
1. Scotty James (AUS) 88.25
2. Ayumu Hirano (JPN) 87.25
3. Yuto Totsuka (JPN) 84.50
4. Taylor Gold (USA) 81.25
5. Ruka Hirano (JPN) 80.75
Those are the five who are probably safe. After that, the scores drop so sharply that Ireland’s Seamus O’Connor is 11th with a 57.00 and China’s Gu Ao sits on the bubble at 50.25.
So while only one American is in the top 12 right now, it won’t take much to shake things up.
Those of us of a certain age remember when Shaun White was a prodigy in 2006. Now he has a resume too long to list, and age 35, he has worked his way back to the top level while being sporadically active. The first 80% of his run is vintage White. The next landing is not. He’s underrotated, and he can’t stay upright. He’ll need to make good on his second run.
The USA’s Taylor Gold just went big — at least in parts of his run. He loses momentum midway through but finishes strong and stays clean, good for an 81.25 and fourth place. That’ll likely assure his qualification.
China’s Wang Ziyang crashes, and that brings up the three-time gold medalist, Shaun White …
Mikaela Shiffrin spoke with reporters at length after her shocking exit in the slalom. The emotion of suddenly losing her father is still with her, especially in a situation like this, with two quick departures in these Olympics.
But while the comparisons to Simone Biles are inevitable, Shiffrin insists she will compete in the rest of the races on the Alpine program.
Canadian teen Liam Gill has a small crash. Like everyone else so far, he’s unhurt. That must be a relief to anyone who has seen him break his collarbone twice in his mid-teens.
The USA’s Lucas Foster has a great run most of the way down. He has one bad landing but stays up. That one bad landing knocks him down to a 42.00. This isn’t figure skating, where a skater can medal even with a fall.
Next: Louis Vito, who was fifth in the 2010 Olympics competing for the USA. He now competes for Italy. At age 33, he’s still got it, getting some amplitude up around 22 feet on a run that opens with a double cork 1260. Judges? 60.25.
And now another US resident competing elsewhere — Ireland’s Seamus O’Connor. He’s just 24 but is in his first Olympics. He alternates small tricks with big ones and, like Vito, gets about 22 feet above the lip of the pipe. That’s good for a 57.
This is, of course, what you all want to know. When can we see curling again?
Soon enough. You can either stay up another seven hours or go to sleep now and set an alarm.
Australia’s Valentino Guseli is just 16, younger than most of the music being played at the venue (current: Jimi Hendrix). He lets loose an audible exclamation after landing hard on the lip of the pipe, but he brilliantly salvages the rest of the run. His score of 31.75 seems harsh. If you can land a double cork 1080 and a 1260 after a hard landing, shouldn’t that impress the judges?
No one asked me, of course.
We’ve seen a couple of crashes and mistakes since that opening quartet Hirano, Hirano, Totsuka and James delivered such astounding runs.
The next Hirano, Kaishu, returns the competition to elite level with high amplitude and controlled rotations. Not quite the variety of grabs and moves to challenge the leaders, but that’s considerably better.
A curious effort here from China’s Gao Hongbo, who tries no rotational tricks at all on his way down. It’s rare to get a 15.00 without falling, but Gao can now add that dubious accomplishment to his resume.
Gu Ao gives a better representation of Chinese snowboarding with a couple of double cork 1080s. It’s only a 50.25, but at least it resembles world-class halfpipe action.
Scotty James, one of the top Australian winter athletes by any measure, is a three-time world champion and the 2018 bronze medalist.
And my goodness — save something for the final, won’t you? James just ramped up the difficulty all the way down the halfpipe, ending with two double cork 1260s.
The PA blares some AC/DC as James moves into first with an 88.25 and says hello to various relatives and friends via the camera at the finish.
This is just the first run of qualification? Exceptional stuff here by all four riders so far.
Ayumu Hirano is the two-time defending silver medalist, if it makes sense to “defend” a silver medal. He’s also first in this year’s World Cup standings. He also competed in skateboarding in the Olympics in his home country last summer.
He’s good, in other words.
And he certainly showed it here. Double cork 1080, double cork 1080, 900, 900, 1260, and dizzying heights. (“Amplitude” is the more apt word.)
That’s an 87.25. He won’t have any trouble qualifying.
(Same format as the women — two runs, best score counts, top 12 advance to final.)
Notable names in the men’s halfpipe qualification start list …
1-3 Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, Ruka Hirano and Yuto Tosuka
4 Scotty James (AUS)
9 Valentino Guseli (AUS)
11 Kaishu Hirano (JPN)
12 Liam Gill (JPN)
14 Lucas Foster (USA)
17 Seamus O’Connor (IRL)
20 Taylor Gold (USA)
23 Shaun White (USA)
25 Chase Josey (USA)
Ayuma and Kaishu are brothers. Ruka is not.
At this hour …
It’s just a slow day for some reason. The only action right now is in snowboardcross, where half the field is going down the course to see how bad their seeds will be for the knockout rounds.
But we have men’s halfpipe qualification coming up in 10 minutes. That’ll have the stage to itself for 1 1/4 hours until the women’s slalom has its second run with its two stars either out (Shiffrin) or far back (Vlhova).
Over to snowboardcross now, where Team GB’s Charlotte Bankes has set the second-fastest time in qualifying. All four Americans — Stacy Gaskill (fourth), Lindsey Jacobellis (fifth), Faye Gulini (seventh) and Meghan Tierney (16th) — broke into the top 16 and can sit out the second run.
Gold! Norway’s Birk Ruud, men’s freestyle skiing big air
And silver to the USA’s Colby Stevenson.
The ebullient veteran Henrik Harlaut of Sweden nearly bumped ahead of Stevenson. But he seems quite content to share the podium, exulting after seeing his score of 91.00 posted.
Ruud is taking his final run with a Norwegian flag in his hand. And he still lands it. Legend.
And no! Donaggio can’t stick the landing, and Colby Stevenson will finish no worse than third. It’ll get scant attention compared with Shiffrin’s disaster and may even be overshadowed by the “US snowboarders other than Chloe Kim can’t qualify” story, but it’s something for US fans to celebrate in a week that hasn’t been what they’ve hoped.
Can Colby Stevenson get a medal? It’s looking more likely. Sweden’s Oliwer Magnusson has a nice-looking tail grab and gets a 90.75, good but not enough to pass the American.
Norway’s Birk Ruud has clinched a medal and will almost certainly take gold. The next two to go, Italy’s Leonardo Donaggio and Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut, will need to go well over 90 to beat Stevenson …