Grand Prix: Shaun White, Ben Ferguson lead star-studded field into snowboard halfpipe finals
The Aspen Times
Men’s snowboard halfpipe finalists
1. Shaun White, USA 95
2. Ben Ferguson, USA 93.50
3. Yuto Totsuka, JPN 91.75
4. Scotty James, AUS 88.75
5. Jake Pates, USA 86.00
6. Danny Davis, USA 83.25
7. Toby Miller, USA 81.50
8. Chase Josey, USA 76.00
9. Gregory Bretz, USA 75.75
10. Naito Ando, JPN 73.75
Notable non-finalists: Brett Esser (12th), Louie Vito (15th), Rakai Tait (17th), Gabe Ferguson (23rd), Robert Pettit (27th)
Women’s SNOWBOARD HALFPIPE FINALISTS
1. Arielle Gold, USA 91.00
2. Maddie Mastro, USA 90.25
3. Hikaru Oe, JPN 86.00
4. Kelly Clark, USA 85.00
5. Chloe Kim, USA, 82.00
6. Queralt Castellet, ESP 79.75
7. Haruna Matsumoto, JPN 79.50
8. Kurumi Imai, JPN 71.50
Notable non-finalists: Hannah Teter (ninth), Elena Hight (11th), Torah Bright (15th)
Oregon native Ben Ferguson scored a perfect 10 on his second and final run of Thursday’s men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass.
Sure, the judges’ scorecards go to 100, but when you lock down a finals spot after your first run, there is more leeway to play around in your second.
“I landed the run I wanted to land. It was a little loose, but the judges were stoked on it. I was happy about it,” Ferguson said of his first run, a 93.50 that ended up being the second-best score out of either of the two qualifying heats. “And then the second run I just got to cut loose and kind of mess around and did some carves and some butters and stuff, so that was super fun.”
Ferguson’s impressive ability to carve the slippery pipe was on full display in that second run, the sort of free pass every snowboarder dreams of in a high-stakes competition. The Snowmass Grand Prix is the second to last of the U.S. Olympic team qualifiers, where podiums are of the utmost importance.
Ferguson came into this week leading the qualifying standings and looks almost assured of a spot in next month’s Olympics in South Korea, which would be a first for the soon-to-be 23-year-old.
“There is definitely the pressure to perform and try to get those Olympic points,” fellow snowboard halfpipe competitor Chase Josey said. “But at the end of the day you have to treat it like a normal competition and just take it day-by-day, run-by-run and try to focus on snowboarding and feeling good and having fun.”
Josey of Hailey, Idaho, is among those seeking one of the four U.S. Olympic team spots, and he’ll have a chance to push himself into the thick of the picture this weekend. Josey scored 76 in the first of two heats Thursday to qualify for Saturday’s final. Josey entered the week sixth in points in the Olympic team chase.
“There are so many talented riders all gunning for those spots. It’s gnarly and it’s competitive,” the 22-year-old Josey said. “I remember being around for the 2014 Olympic cycle, but I was pretty young then and wasn’t really thinking about trying to make the team. But this year has been the one year where I really think I have a shot. I’m really trying to go for it. So it’s been fun.”
Ferguson and Josey were two of the seven American men to qualify for Saturday’s 10-man snowboard halfpipe final. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White landed two strong runs in qualifying, including a second run of 95, to lead the way. White is only fourth in the Olympic team standings but is considered by many to be a lock for the Olympic team.
Also advancing to Saturday’s finals for the U.S. are two-time Olympian Gregory Bretz, Eagle’s Jake Pates, fan-favorite Danny Davis and Tahoe teen Toby Miller. A win by any of the Americans this weekend could vault them onto the Olympic team.
While White and Ferguson had the two best scores in qualifying, Japan’s Yuto Totsuka was third with 91.75 and Australia’s Scotty James fourth with 88.75. Japan’s Naito Ando scored 73.75 in the first heat to sneak into finals.
“There is always pressure going into the first round. You always want to land the first run. You are always pretty nervous and when it works out, you are stoked,” Ferguson said. “It’s cool being in Snowmass, just to see something different. You get to ride a little bit different terrain on the way down to the halfpipe.”
The first heat lacked much of the star power as the second. Totsuka, James, Josey, Bretz and Ando were the top five in the heat, fending off snowboarders, including Ben’s little brother, Gabe Ferguson, and Aspen’s Robert Pettit. The second heat was stacked with big names like White, Ben Ferguson, Davis and 2010 Olympian Louie Vito.
This didn’t make it any easier to make finals for Josey, who was third behind Totsuka and James in the first heat, but it did make watching the second heat that much more enjoyable.
“Heat 1 was maybe a little less stacked than Heat 2. It was just about trying to land a run, being strategic and fortunately I did and we are going onto finals on Saturday,” Josey said. “We are here watching Heat 2 and it’s definitely stacked. There has been a lot of shredding going on, so it’s fun to just watch and hang out knowing that the work’s been done for today.”
Four Americans make women’s final
Steamboat’s Arielle Gold edged out California’s Maddie Mastro to finish first in Thursday’s women’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying. Gold scored 91 on her first run to advance to Saturday’s finals. Mastro had an 88 on her first run and then scored 90.25 on her second.
Gold and Mastro will join Kelly Clark (85, fourth) and Chloe Kim (82, fifth) in the finals. Kim, Clark, Mastro and Gold entered the week 1-2-3-4, respectively, in terms of U.S. Olympic team qualifying. Kim’s nomination to the team is essentially a lock, while a podium from any of the other three could secure another spot.
Hannah Teter and Elena Hight, who entered the week just outside the Olympic team bubble, finished ninth and 11th, respectively, in Thursday’s qualifying and are not in the eight-woman final.
Joining the four Americans in the final is a trio from Japan: Hikaru Oe (86, third), Haruna Matsumoto (79.50, seventh) and Kurumi Imai (71.50, eighth). Spain’s Queralt Castellet scored 79.75 to take sixth to also qualify for finals.
Australian Olympic gold medalist Torah Bright was 15th in qualifying.