7 September 2017

Japan and USA Dominate Qualifying Heats at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup

Press Release September 7 2017

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand (7 September 2017) – The elite of the snowboarding world were in action in Cardrona Alpine Resort’s 22ft Olympic superpipe today as the qualifying rounds of the men’s and women’s snowboard halfpipe World Cup got underway.

American riders claimed three of the six available finals spots in the 30-strong women’s heat with Maddie Mastro the top scorer, Kelly Clark third and Chloe Kim fourth. France’s Mirabelle Thovex separated the US contingent as the second highest qualifier, with Japan’s Hikaru Oe fifth and Xuetong Cai sixth.

The 42 male riders competed across two heats with Raibu Katayama (JPN) and Ben Ferguson (USA) the top scorers. The top three riders in each heat will now move directly to finals with the next five from each heat contesting semi-finals.

The judges awarded Maddie Mastro the top score for her good amplitude and grabs.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Mastro. “I’m happy to put it all together especially in the first contest of the season. It’s important to start the season off on the right foot. It really sets the tone for the rest of the Olympic year.”

With just five months to go until the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, the 2017 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ World Cup fields have been stacked with the best in the business.

“It never gets easy no matter how many times you do this,” says three-time Olympic medallist, Kelly Clark who has been travelling to New Zealand to compete since 2002.

“I’m really thankful to put down two runs and make it to finals,” said Clark. “It’s hard in September to go zero to a hundred to be full contest ready. It’s really nice just to knock the rust off and see my level is at a high level at this time of year. It’s just a great way to start the season.”

Ben Ferguson was also “pretty stoked” to land a high scoring run and make finals at his first competition of the season. “It’s kind of crazy coming here and doing to a contest, having to get my feet under me so quick. It just felt good to land a run. I’ve got a couple more tricks up my sleeve, so hoping to amp it up a bit more for finals.”

The judges were impressed by Ferguson’s trick combination and risk taking, dropping switch into the pipe. He and heat two winner Raibu Katayama both stood out from the field by gaining huge amplitude above the pipe. The Japanese rider raised the bar on trick difficulty, including three 1080s in his run.

Japanese riders made their presence felt in heat two with Sochi Olympic silver medallist Ayumu Hirano qualifying to finals in third place and Sochi bronze medallist Taku Hiraoka booking a spot in the semi-finals with a fifth-place qualifying score.

Men’s semi-finals and men’s and women’s finals are scheduled for tomorrow (Friday). Competition has been brought forward a day due to heavy snowfalls in recent days and more in the forecast.

Top qualifying runs

Maddie Mastro (USA)

Frontside 720, mute grab

Cab 720, stalefish grab

Crippler, indi grab

Backside 540, mute grab

Frontside 540, stalefish

Raibu Katayama (JPN)

Front 1080, tail grab

Cab double 1080, mute grab

Frontside 900, mute grab

Backside 900, melon grab

Frontside double 1080, indy grab

Ben Ferguson (USA)

Backside 180 drop in

Cab 1080 double, mute grab

Double crippler

Backside 360,

Switch McTwist

Switch alley-oop, rodeo