Snowboard halfpipe’s biggest names already advanced to the finals, but that doesn’t mean that the semifinal round is lacking in some star power. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. ET.
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U.S. snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington barely missed clinching a trip to the finals, so she could be a contender if she makes it through the semifinals. Her family went through some unusual avenues to afford her Olympic training.
Another interesting name to watch is Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova. She’s shooting for a bid in halfpipe finals after cracking her helmet in slopestyle:
Even before the finals kick off, there should be some more interesting snowboarding to watch.
Today at 5 a.m. ET on NBCOlympics.com, Shaun White begins his quest to become the first American man to win three Winter Olympic gold medals in the same individual event with qualifying in snowboard halfpipe.
White, who pulled out of the inaugural Olympic slopestyle competition to focus on halfpipe, will look to turn back the world’s best – including Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov (a.k.a. “I-Pod”), the 2013 halfpipe world champion, and Japan’s 15-year-old dynamo, Ayumu Hirano.
White’s American teammates – Greg Bretz (who defeated White in the first of five Olympic qualifiers this winter), Taylor Gold and Danny Davis – are also potential medal threats.
Here are some quick details on those main contenders.
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Shaun White may have just won his sixth straight X Games superpipe gold, which will sit nicely next to his two Olympic halfpipe titles, but he’s still not satisfied and believes he’ll have to step up his game before Sochi comes around next February.
“A lot of things I’m doing this season I hope are just outdated by the next season,” White, who earned the top two scores in Sunday night’s final, told the AP. “I’m hoping to progress a lot.”
He’ll certainly need to if he wants to hold off the “next Shaun White,” aka 14-year-old Japanese phenom Ayumu Hirano, who finished with the silver in the superpipe and who White admitted had an “amazing future” ahead of him.
White is also arguably well-behind back-to-back X Games champ Mark McMorris in slopestyle. Shaun finished fifth in the finals on Saturday after being unable to pull-off the triple cork during competition that he landed in practice, but he apparently used that failure to fuel his performance Sunday.
“I’ve got some work to do in the slopestyle department. I used to get super stressed out, about something that would happen like in slopestyle. I’m old enough to just turn that into such a positive thing for myself – to really take that step back as a giant leap forward.”
He earned a perfect 100 during last year’s superpipe, and a 98 on Sunday while pulling off tricks no one in the field could, so we’re admittedly excited to see what this giant leap forward looks like for White.