Ferreira, Faulhaber make halfpipe skiing finals at Copper Mountain Grand Prix
This is the second of the U.S. Olympic team halfpipe qualifiers
Aspen’s Alex Ferreira took a big step toward returning to the Winter Olympics by finishing third in the men’s halfpipe skiing qualifier on Wednesday at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix. The reigning Olympic silver medalist scored 94.50 on the first of his two runs in the second heat to safely make it into Friday’s finals.
New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and 2021 X Games Aspen champion, was the top qualifier, scoring 96 on his first run in the second heat. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, a two-time Olympian, was close behind, scoring 95.75 in the first heat.
Also qualifying through to the 10-skier final via the first heat are Canada’s Brendan MacKay (94.25), Boulder’s Lyman Currier (91.25), Winter Park’s Birk Irving (89.50) and Canada’s Dylan Marineau (86.25).
Joining Porteous and Ferreira in the finals out of the second heat are Canadians Simon D’Artois (92) and Noah Bowman (89.75), and Nevada’s David Wise (87.25), the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist.
With 45 starters, the list of who did not make the finals is extensive. French veteran Kevin Rolland, a former X Games champion, was the first one left out with 82.75.
In 12th was Aspen’s own Tristan Feinberg, who scored 33 on his first run before landing a solid 81.25 on his second run. Feinberg, only 18, made his first World Cup final this past spring at the Grand Prix held at Aspen’s Buttermilk Ski Area.
Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell finished 33rd in qualifying on Wednesday, scoring 41.25, while local skier Kai Morris was 35th (38.75). Basalt’s Chace Maytham was 37th (37.25).
Of note, Gus Kenworthy, the Telluride native who now skis for his mother’s homeland of Great Britain, crashed hard in his first run and did not start his second to officially finish in last place among the starters.
The Copper Grand Prix is the second official U.S. Olympic team qualifier for halfpipe after the Aspen Grand Prix back in March. Blunck won that World Cup event, followed in second by MacKay and in third by Porteous, who had won the world championship only a week earlier, which Aspen also hosted.
The battle to make the U.S. team in men’s halfpipe skiing is expected to be competitive. Blunck is a safe bet at this point, while Ferriera is in a good spot after finishing sixth overall — and fourth among Americans — at the Aspen Grand Prix. Wise was fourth and Irving fifth in Aspen to join Blunck and Ferreira at the top of the hierarchy for the moment. Currier, a 2014 Olympian, finished eighth in Aspen and is very much in the mix, as well.
Friday’s final will go a long way in determining who makes the Olympic team. The third qualifier is next week in the Winter Dew Tour, which is also being held at Copper Mountain. A fourth and final qualifier is in early January at Mammoth Mountain in California.
Faulhaber makes women’s ski pipe finals
Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber also is headed to the finals on Friday after finishing fifth among 32 starters in the women’s halfpipe skiing qualifier on Wednesday. The 17-year-old scored 82.75 on her first of two runs, second best among the Americans. Only California’s Brita Sigourney, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist, was better, scoring 84.25 to finish third.
Estonian superstar Kelly Sildaru scored 89.75 to lead the qualifier, while China’s Eileen Gu — herself a rising sensation in the sport — was second with 88. Canada’s Rachael Karker was fourth (83.75).
Also making it into the eight-woman final are Britain’s Zoe Atkin (81.75), Canada’s Cassie Sharpe (81.50) and China’s Kexin Zhang (81.25). Sharpe is the reigning Olympic gold medalist.
California’s Abigale Hansen just missed making finals, qualifying 10th with 80.25. She was third among Americans, while Winter Park’s Svea Irving — Birk’s sister — was 12th overall with 77.25. Vermont’s Devin Logan, who along with Sigourney is among the most veteran of U.S. freeskiers — Logan won slopestyle silver at the 2014 Olympics — was 14th in Wednesday’s qualifier.
For Faulhaber, making finals is a big boost to her Olympic team chances after she crashed during training at the Aspen Grand Prix and was unable to start. She did finish a surprising fourth at the Aspen world championships back in March — behind Gu, Karker and Atkin — but that wasn’t an official U.S. Olympic team qualifier.
Friday’s finals are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Peacock and NBC Sports. The expected winter storm coming to Colorado could impact the schedule.
The men’s and women’s snowboard halfpipe qualifiers are scheduled for Thursday at Copper Mountain, with those finals scheduled for Saturday.
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Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul was officially named to the U.S. cross-country ski team for the upcoming Winter Olympics in China. The 23-year-old will be a first-time Olympian and joins seven other women on the team that was announced Thursday by U.S. Ski and Snowboard. The Olympics begin Feb. 4 in Beijing.