BRIGHT START IN SOCHI
Australia's reigning halfpipe champion Torah Bright cruised into the Olympic slopestyle final yesterday as she began an unprecedented treble quest.
Men's snowboard star Shaun White of the US may have considered it too taxing to tackle both his favoured halfpipe event and slopestyle, pulling out of the latter on Wednesday, but Aussie Bright had no such qualms.
The 27-year-old, a two-time superpipe X-Games winner, made no mistakes in finishing second in her qualification heat with 85.25 points.
"I have a long journey ahead of me here," said Bright (above). "To make it straight to the finals is great. I have taken on a unique journey, I don't know the future but I want to show the world the sport of snowboarding."
Bright is defending her halfpipe title and will also compete in snowboard cross.
Swiss Isabel Derungs won the first heat with 87.50, while Canadian Spencer O'Brien (82.75), the 2013 slopestyle world champion, and Finland's Enni Rukajarvi (79.00), also qualified directly for the final.
Four-time X-Games winner Jamie Andersen of the US did not even take her second run in the second heat after she posted a 93.50 in the first run to ease into the final.
She was pipped to first place in the heat by Austria's Anna Gasser (95.50), while Elena Koenz (86.25) of Switzerland and American Karly Shorr (84.75) also progressed.
The top four from each heat qualified directly for Sunday's final while the other competitors will face off again earlier on Sunday in the semi-finals, with the top four completing the 12-woman final field.
Earlier, the men got the Sochi Olympics underway and Shaun White was not forgotten.
While there was disappointment at his absence, there were no echoes of the safety concerns that prompted the American star's withdrawal.
White, the biggest name in the extreme sport, pulled out of the slopestyle on Wednesday concerned that an "intimidating" course on which he jammed his hand in practice might jeopardise his halfpipe title defence.
The two-time Olympic halfpipe champion had come in for some trash-talk from Canadians Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant.
While Parrot stood by his comment, Toutant later deleted his tweet, claiming it had been misinterpreted.
"I deleted the tweet because some people took it the wrong way," he said, after finishing third in the first heat to book himself a place in the final.
"I wasn't even hating on Shaun at all, I was just saying it's a bummer because he's the rider that everyone says is the best.
"He's the one everyone wants the chance to compete against and prove that you could do better. I'm kind of sad that he decided to pull out, that's all I wanted to say."
However, Toutant did not let White off the hook completely.
"He decided a couple of months ago that he was going to do both (slopestyle and halfpipe). To take an American spot away from another one of the guys, some American (snowboarder) is probably today, probably sitting at home angry.
"I don't see why he wouldn't compete, it's perfect here."- Reuters.
*The 2014 Winter Olympics will be shown LIVE on SingTel mio TV Ch 134-140 from today till Feb 23.
"I'd like to be Ross Phelps and come and get eight (golds). I meant Michael Phelps. Ross Phelps is a volunteer from Skate Canada."
- Olympic ice dance champion Scott Moir (left), who got tongue-tied in his enthusiasm for the new Olympic team event, which could give him two gold medals in Sochi WINTER