Sunday, December 04, 2022

Eileen Gu qualifies at freeski halfpipe, taking aim at medal in Beijing.

Eileen Gu qualifies at freeski halfpipe, taking aim at medal in Beijing.

Eileen Gu, already with two Olympic medals in Beijing, moved her ambitions to the freeski halfpipe on Thursday, advancing easily to the final on Friday.

Her first of two qualifying runs scored 93.75, vaulting her to the top of the field and ensuring a chance at another medal.

Gu, the Californian who is competing for China, believes that halfpipe is the best of her three events. She had already won gold in big air and narrowly missed another in slopestyle, settling for silver.

A women’s field of 20 qualifiers was pared to 12 finalists. Qualifications for men’s freeski halfpipe was to follow.

Competitors were granted just two chances, with only the best score counting. The women’s final is scheduled for Friday morning (Thursday evening in the United States), and the men’s final is planned for a day later.

Gu’s competition included her top rival, Kelly Sildaru of Estonia, the only other woman who competed in all three events (big air, slopestyle, halfpipe). Sildaru, who won bronze in slopestyle, scored 87.5 on her first run, virtually locking in a spot in the final.

The United States had a strong contingent, led by 17-year-old Hanna Faulhaber, who was fourth at the world championships last year, and Brita Sigourney, who won Olympic bronze four years ago.

Both opened with confident runs that put them near the top of the leaderboard.

The men’s qualifications were scheduled next at Genting Snow Park, and the halfpipe event looked to be a wide-open affair. The two-time gold medalist David Wise of the United States still has what it takes to win, but he finds himself in a deep pool of competitors, including American teammates like Birk Irving, Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck. Gus Kenworthy, a former teammate and a three-time Olympian who won a silver medal in 2014, now rides for Britain.

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