Alex Ferreira wins as U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe qualifying heats up

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PyeongChang Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira boosted his chances to return to the Winter Games, winning the second of six U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe qualifying events on Friday.

Ferreira scored 93.50 with a 1440 on his first of three runs in Copper Mountain, Colorado. It held up against an international field including two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise, who finished seventh and has work to do to make the U.S. team for Beijing.

The Olympic roster will include up to four men. Nobody has qualified yet. Ferreira needed a big result, given he came into the week fifth among Americans in the world rankings.

In 2018, Ferreira had three of the top four runs in the Olympic final. But he was relegated to silver when Wise posted the best score in his final run. After that, Ferreira won X Games Aspen in 2019 and 2020, before dropping to seventh last year.

The U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe qualifying series runs through Jan. 7.

The top two Americans per gender in the world rankings on Jan. 6 make the Olympic team, should they also rank in the top six in the world. To reach three skiers per gender, the top performers from the six qualifying events will be added, based on a skier’s single best podium result. After that, the teams can reach a maximum of four skiers per gender through discretionary selections.

Aaron Blunck, a two-time Olympian and 2019 World champion, was best positioned of any American man or woman coming into Copper. He won the first Olympic qualifier last March and was ranked No. 1 in the world going into Friday’s final, where he was 10th.

Wise was fourth at that first qualifier in March and ranked third among Americans going into Copper, behind Blunck and Birk Irving.

On the women’s side, no Americans made the podium Friday.

China’s Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old born in San Francisco to an American father and Chinese mother, won as expected. She is the reigning X Games and world champion in halfpipe and slopestyle and could add a third medal in the new Olympic event of big air.

PyeongChang bronze medalist Brita Sigourney was the top American in each of the first two qualifiers — third in March, fourth on Friday — and was the highest-ranked American at seventh in the world entering this week.

Maddie Bowman, the 2014 Olympic champ, announced her retirement last year.

The Copper Mountain Grand Prix concludes Saturday with Shaun White headlining the snowboard halfpipe finals (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Peacock).

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