Basically the "who's who" of the slopestyle world is here in Cardrona, New Zealand, at the moment, competing and trying to make it through to the next Olympics.
This afternoon, as the FIS Snowboard World Cup slopestyle event of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 got underway, we already witnessed some unexpected results, including drop outs (with the most schocking of them being the ankle injury of Shaun White!), postponements and re-scheduling.
Just like the last two days when poor visibility and wind made it tough for the snowboarders to train on the slopestyle course (which consists of a wall ride, a rail set, pole jam and a three-kicker line ranging in size from 50ft to 62ft) the weather played a major role today once again.
As organisers had to call for several delays due to fog and strong winds, only two out of four men's qualifier heats could take place. The two women’s heats and two remaining men’s heats will now take place tomorrow (Monday) with the top four qualifiers going straight into the finals of 16 men and 8 women.
However, half of the men's final is already set.
Eric Willet (USA) won the first qualifier heat scoring big with 88.66 for his cab 3 to cab 270 boardslide, lipslide 450 out, switch back 900 melon, frontside 1080 double cork mute and a backside 1080 double cork mute.
But Gjermund Braaten (NOR) was able to top the score in heat 2 with 91.00 points. The Norwegian viking nailed an insane run: a frontside 360 stall to blunt 270 out, boardslide to fakie, cab 900 melon, frontside 1080 double cork mute and a backside 1080 double cork mute.
While the two riders will meet other qualifiers Maxence Parrot (CAN), Roope Tonteri (FIN) and Peetu Piiroinen (FIN) from heat one, plus Clemens Schattschneider (AUT), Ulrik Badertscher (NOR) and Billy Morgan (GBR) in the finals, some other favourites for the podium are already out.
Charles Guldemond (USA) missed the cut of heat 2 as fifth ranked rider. In heat one, former slopestyle World Champion Seppe Smits (BEL) and Sage Kotsenburg (USA) missed the top-4 too.
In addition, Shaun White (USA) came short while trying a double cork on the first kicker during training, hurting his ankle and had to stop riding. No news so far about his presence in a few days at the halfpipe competition.
The two-time halfpipe Olympic champion has now to go for the Olympic quota minimum of a top-30 World Cup result in one of the following FIS Snowboard World Cup slopestyle events (the next one being in Copper, Colorado, USA, at the end of December).