Heavy snow on Friday and high winds on Saturday led to the cancellation of the final round of the skiing halfpipe and snowboarding slopestyle events at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix. The competition, held in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., served as the first Olympic qualifier for the U.S. athletes hoping to make the team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
With the final round unable to be contested, the results from qualification stood and four skiers moved halfway to earning an Olympic berth. In the men’s freeskiing halfpipe competition, Torin Yater-Wallace earned the top score of 92.33, followed by Gus Kenworthy with 92.oo. and Taylor Seaton with 90.00. Yater-Wallace and Kenworthy were 2014 Olympians, with Kenworthy earning a silver medal in the ski slopestyle event.
It was Yater-Wallace’s first World Cup win since 2014. He’s had his share of injuries in the years since Sochi, with a concussion in 2015 followed by an infection that affected his gall bladder, liver and lungs and put him on life support in 2016. At the Mammoth competition, he told U.S. Freeskiing, “(I’m) actually dealing with a really bruised heel right now, but I am working through it.”
In the women’s event, the reigning Olympic champion in ski halfpipe, Maddie Bowman, finished second. In first place was France’s Marie Martinod and third was Japan’s Ayana Onozuka.
Yater-Wallace, Kenworthy, Seaton and Bowman now just need one more podium finish at an Olympic selection event to automatically become PyeongChang Olympians. A maximum of three athletes per gender will be named to the U.S. team if they finish on the podium at two designated selection events. The second of the five planned qualifiers will be held next December.
“The fact that it’s an Olympic qualifier definitely adds a lot of pressure,” Kenworthy said, “but I tried not to think too much about the stakes at hand and just focused on landing my run.”