Action returned to the superpipe today for the qualifying rounds of the FIS Freeski World Cup Halfpipe presented by Cardrona Alpine Resortat the QRC Winter Games NZ, fuelled by Forsyth Barr. As the first competition of the 2019/20 FIS Freeski World Cup season, the start list featured astrong international field of skiers, with young up and comers footing it with some of the world’s best.
In the women’s field, Canadian skier Cassie Sharpe, with six victories in her last eight World Cup competitions, was down as the name to watch; however a crash in Wednesday’s training session put her out of today’s event and opened the door for some of the other women to start the season strong.
With fog rolling in and out of the Olympic size halfpipe and cutting in to training time, many competitors opted for a conservative approach, doing enough to make the top eight cut to finals but saving their biggest tricks for the finals.
Russia’s Valeroya Demidova, who finished second in last week’s Australia New Zealand Cup Freeski Halfpipe at Winter Games NZ, explains: “The weather is not so good today, tomorrow will be better weather and I hope to do a better run. I changed my run today because today’s training was short, we did a bit of an easy run, but I know what I need to do tomorrow.”
Valeriya qualified in third place and will be in the hunt for a podium place in the final, her first World Cup in a year, following shoulder surgery.
Ahead of her in second place was rising star and winner of last week’s ANC Halfpipe, Eileen Gu. Eileen put two high scoring runs to her feet and says she also has more in the trick bag come finals day.
“I’m pretty happy with my runs,” said Eileen after the competition. “I took a bit of a slam a few days ago so I’m happy to be able to put a run down today and hopefully I’ll be feeling better tomorrow so I can put an even bigger run down.”
Top qualifier in the women’s field today was Li Fanghui who finished the 2018/19 World Cup season ranked fifth. Her teammate Zhang Kexin, ranked third last season, was today’s fourth place qualifier and will be another strong challenger for the podium.
The men’s Halfpipe qualifiers got underway after the women’s but with the weather and visibility deteriorating, a call was made to cancel for today. The qualification programme for men will take place tomorrow (Saturday) and finals to follow. The official programme will be announced this evening via the Winter Games NZ website.
Tomorrow’s Halfpipe competition will be shown live on Sky Channel 9.