Miller and Kim lead six Americans into Copper Grand Prix halfpipe finals |

Miller and Kim lead six Americans into Copper Grand Prix halfpipe finals

2018 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain

Men’s snowboard finalists

1. Raibu Katayama, JPN 93.50

2. Patrick Burgener, SUI 91.00

3. Ikko Anai, JPN 90.50

4. Toby Miller, USA 90.25

5. Jake Pates, USA 89.00

6. Chase Josey, USA 88.50

7. Scotty James, AUS 86.75

8. Yuto Totsuka, JPN 85.00

9. Elias Allenspach, SUI 81.50

10. Kent Callister, AUS 79.50

Women’s snowboard finalists

1. Chloe Kim, USA 95.25

2. Maddie Mastro, USA 89.00

3. Arielle Gold, USA 84.50

4. Xuetong Cai, CHN 82.50

5. Queralt Castellet, ESP 81.25

6. Haruna Masumoto, JPN 76.50

7. Kurumi Imai, JPN 72.75

8. Leng Qiu, CHN 64.50

COPPER MOUNTAIN — On the list of American men’s 15 snowboarders who dropped into the Copper Mountain Resort halfpipe on Thursday, Toby Miller might not have been the first choice of the fans to end the day atop the U.S. leaderboard.

But with a stellar statement on his second run, the 18-year-old from Mammoth Lakes, California, did just that.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect that score,” Miller said after celebrating with U.S. teammates at the bottom of the halfpipe.

At Thursday’s Toyota U.S. Grand Prix men’s snowboard qualification round, Miller earned a 90.25 to top the list of the three Americans who qualified for Saturday’s final round for this first International Ski & Snowboard Federation World Cup halfpipe event of the season.

Miller will be joined by Eagle-Vail local Jake Pates (89.00) and Idaho’s Chase Josey (88.50) as the trio of Americans in the 10-rider final on Saturday morning. Their fellow Americans Chase Blackwell (74.75) of Dillon and Ryan Wachendorfer (79.00) of Vail barely missed qualifying for the final, each finishing in sixth place in their respective qualifying heats.

Other top qualifiers included Japan’s Raibu Katayama (93.50), Switzerland’s Patrick Burgener (91.00), Australia’s Scotty James (86.75) and Japan’s Ikko Anai (90.50) and Yuto Totsuka (85.00).

Miller broke through to the finals in resounding fashion thanks to tinkering at the last minute with the placement of his biggest trick on the 18-degree pipe, a frontside double-cork 1260 (two inversions and three-and-a-half horizontal rotations). Miller said he noticed during warm-up runs Thursday morning that the Copper pipe had become faster at the bottom of the 550-foot long man-made snow structure, a contrast to the training conditions earlier in the week.

As such, Miller and his U.S. coaches decided to place the frontside double-cork 1260 at the bottom of his run, rather than on the first or third hit, as they’d originally planned.

“I was sitting in sixth,” Miller said of his position heading into his second of two runs, “which isn’t really where you want to be. But it put a fire under me, made me have to land that run. So landing that run, I think I surprised myself a little bit. I couldn’t be more stoked. The level of riding here is through the roof.”

Miller’s run ultimately consisted of a frontside double-cork 1080 on the first hit, into a cab double-cork 1080 on the second, then a frontside 900 with a tail grab on the third, followed by a McTwist and, ultimately, that exclamation point of a frontside double-cork 1260.

“I’m just proud to land that run,” Miller said. “Couldn’t be more happy.”

Josey posted the sixth-highest score of the day with a first run that consisted of a frontside alley-oop, a frontside double-cork 1080, a cab double-cork 1080, a frontside 900 and a double Michalchuk. Josey’s return to the competition scene comes after he spent a month down in Argentina this past summer coming down from the stressful 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic cycle via a lot of backcountry powder riding in a foreign place.

“I think I’m snowboarding back to usual,” Josey said of his halfpipe form, “but I’m trying to put a little less pressure on myself this year in the wake of the Olympics.”

In the women’s competition, Breckenridge resident and Steamboat Springs native Arielle Gold competed in her first event since offseason shoulder surgery. After initially going back and forth earlier in the week on whether she’d ultimately drop in for qualifiers, the Pyeongchang bronze medalist went for it and posted the third-highest women’s qualifying score of the day (84.50), only behind her American teammates Chloe Kim (92.00) and Maddie Mastro (88.00).

“I’m really happy with how I rode today,” Gold said. “I didn’t have the greatest practice earlier this week. And I wasn’t sure I was going to compete, with my shoulder, and busy with school, and stuff. I’m just glad I decided to compete, because it worked out well. I had a lot of fun. The pipe was great today, so I’m hoping I can get the rest of my tricks going for the final.”

On Friday, the Grand Prix freeski finals are scheduled for 11 a.m in Copper’s Center Village. Then, on Saturday, the snowboard finals are scheduled at the same spot for 11 a.m.

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