Australian flag bearer Scotty James has advanced to the men’s snowboard halfpipe finals to set up an epic Winter Olympic showdown against American great Shaun White.
Much has been made of the pair’s rivalry heading into the Pyeongchang Games, with bitter debates over perfect scores and skewed judging stealing the spotlight.
But all that was cast aside on Tuesday night as the two best riders in the world battled it out in the qualifiers.
James, who fired up much of the debate by questioning White’s perfect 100 at a World Cup meet last month, before admitting to feeling “shafted” by some of the scores he received, eased into qualification contention with an 89-point first run.
But two-time Olympic gold medallist and eight-time X Games halfpipe winner White took to lead after the first round with a score of 93.25.
The 23-year-old Victorian raised the bar once more in the second round, laying down some of his bigger tricks, including frontside and backside 1260s, to jump ahead again with a score of 96.75.
However, it was the 31-year-old American who took first-day honours with consecutive back-to-back 1260s and his amplitude (air) to score a 98.5 out of 100 in the second.
James had no complaints with the American’s run this time around.
“Absolutely. I expected to Shaun to come out and put a run down like that. I watched his run – it was a good run – it had good amplitude and was pretty flawless,” James said.
“I’ve left a lot in the tank for tomorrow and I’m feeling really good in the pipe … I think it’s going to be an awesome show.”
He also hinted at having something more in reserve for the final after he didn’t use the switch backside double cork 1260 – the trick that has caused some consternation because James is the only one who has acheived it and believes he should be scored accordingly.
“I’ve got a lot more to give. I’ll leave it at that,” James said.
White welcomed the competition, saying he was glad for the challenge in qualifications.
“I would have loved to have skated into finals on my 93 (points) but everybody started putting it down,” White said.
“I’m like ‘OK, if we’re going there, we’re going there’.”
“I think it’s great for the sport and it’s great for a guy like me that needs the motivation – I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Japan’s X Games champion Ayumu Hirano also progressed to the finals in third place, while Australian Kent Callister snuck in to finish 11th scoring 77 points in his second run.
Nate Johnstone failed to make the cut and finished 22nd.
The mouth-watering final begins on Wednesday from 12pm (AEST).
US luger taken to hospital after horror crash
US luger Emily Sweeney suffered a sickening crash in the women’s singles competition that sent her to hospital.
Sweeney was on curve no. 12 in her final run when she bounced around the track and lost control.
🇺🇸 Emily Sweeney has had a horrific crash in the #luge.
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) February 13, 2018
Sweeney waved off a stretcher and struggled to her feet to gingerly walk off the ice. She was taken to the Olympic Village clinic for evaluation.
The 24-year-old said she felt sore and stiff after her big crash, but was fortunate to walk away with no broken bones, according to a representative from the International Luge Federation.
– with AAP