Ferreira makes finals as part of strong US contingent in Olympic halfpipe skiing
Aspen’s Alex Ferreira found himself safely into finals after finishing seventh in the men’s halfpipe skiing qualifier at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday night — Thursday midday in China — as he looks to defend, if not improve upon, his silver medal from 2018.
The 27-year-old, who was the fifth to drop into the Zhangjiakou halfpipe in a 23-man field, cruised to an 84.25 — oddly enough, the exact same score posted by Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber in her qualifying run in the women’s contest earlier that morning — on his first run and simply took a casual joy ride on his second and final run, scoring 69.50, to advance to Friday’s final.
Ferreira opened his first run with back-to-back double cork 1260s, something he’s had as a regular go-to in his arsenal for some time. New to his bag this year is the 1620, something he did not pull out during qualifying but will likely be needed to end up on the podium come finals.
Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck overcame a bad first run to score 92 on his second with his back against the wall and qualified first, edging out New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, who finished second with 90.50.
“Oh man, that first run. I was feeling actually so good, training was going so well and there was no doubt in my mind for the first run,“ Blunck said. “But that’s not how it went at all and then on top, I am honest, I was shaking, I was so nervous. … But once I dropped in, I just remembered that it’s just skiing, I just tried to smile and just remember like, ‘It’s just skiing, dude, this isn’t what makes you as a year, just go skiing, just have some fun.’”
Porteous, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, is the favorite coming into the contest behind his back-to-back 1620 combo. He did put down a single 16 in both of his runs, but never the combo.
In third was Winter Park’s Birk Irving, an Olympic rookie, who scored 89.75 on his second run.
Making it three Americans in the top four was Nevada’s David Wise, who was the last to drop in. The two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist scored 88.75 and 89 on his two runs to put himself in position for the three-peat. Halfpipe skiing only made its Olympic debut at the 2014 Games in Sochi, so Wise is the only Olympic gold medalist in the sport’s history to this point.
Canadian’s Brendan Mackay (fifth, 87.25) and Noah Bowman (sixth, 85.50) were next in qualifying, followed by Ferreira and another Canadian, Simon D’Artois, in eighth with 82.50.
New Zealand’s Miguel Porteous, Nico’s older brother, qualified through in ninth with 81, France’s Kevin Rolland was 10th with 75.25 and Switzerland’s Robin Briguet was 11th with 72.25.
Just making the cut in the 12th and final spot was the Telluride-raised Gus Kenworthy, who now skis for his mother’s homeland of Great Britain. He scored 70.75 on his final run after falling on his first to keep his career going; he plans to retire after the Olympics.
Rounding out the 23-skier field was Finland’s Jon Sallinen, who graduated from Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School as an exchange student and works with valley icon Peter Olenick, after the 21-year-old fell on both runs to finish 23rd with 18.50. It was his first Olympic appearance.
The three-run men’s final is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start on Friday night in Colorado.
Mother Nature — and some unfortunate training injuries — completely changed the vibe around the women’s halfpipe skiing final on Saturday at X Games Aspen.