KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Snow conditions didn’t matter. Pressure and expectations seemed to play no role. Snowboarder Shaun White breezed through his first competitive run of the Sochi Games and moved one step closer to winning a third straight Olympic gold medal in the men’s halfpipe.
He’ll be joined in the finals by his teammate Danny Davis, who also passed through Tuesday’s qualification round.
After two days of riders fretting over conditions of the pipe, White wowed the crowd at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park with his first run, posting the highest score of the qualification round — a 95.75 — and automatically qualifying for the event’s final round, which is scheduled for later Tuesday.
While riders said the course was still far from perfect Tuesday, White showed no ill effects on his impressive run.
Davis posted a score of 92.0 on his first run, which put him in third place at the midpoint of the heat.
Also in Tuesday’s second qualifications heat, American Taylor Gold, 20, posted a score of 81.5 on his first run and improved the mark to 87.5 on the second to finish fifth and advance to the semis.
White and Davis were among the the top six finishers from this afternoon’s qualification rounds who scored high enough to skip the semis and advance straight to the finals. Twelve other riders scored high enough to advance to the semifinals where they’ll battle it out for one of six additional spots in the final round.
With the high score already on the board, White took it bit easier on his second run but still managed to post a 70.75.
Japan’s Taku Hiraoka finished second in the day’s second heat and also advanced to the finals.
Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchivov, who was born in Russia and won the 2013 world championships in the halfpipe, was close to an early exit from the competition. He posted a 15.00 on his troubled first run, but improved the mark to 82.00 to nab the 8th spot and sneak into the semis.
Competing in the first heat earlier Tuesday afternoon, American Greg Bretz advanced to the semifinals.
The semis are slated to begin at 7 p.m. in Sochi (11 a.m. in Washington), followed by the finals at 10:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. in Washington).
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