Over to snowboardcross now, where Team GB’s Charlotte Bankes has set the second-fastest time in qualifying. All four Americans — Stacy Gaskill (fourth), Lindsey Jacobellis (fifth), Faye Gulini (seventh) and Meghan Tierney (16th) — broke into the top 16 and can sit out the second run.
Gold! Norway’s Birk Ruud, men’s freestyle skiing big air
And silver to the USA’s Colby Stevenson.
The ebullient veteran Henrik Harlaut of Sweden nearly bumped ahead of Stevenson. But he seems quite content to share the podium, exulting after seeing his score of 91.00 posted.
Ruud is taking his final run with a Norwegian flag in his hand. And he still lands it. Legend.
And no! Donaggio can’t stick the landing, and Colby Stevenson will finish no worse than third. It’ll get scant attention compared with Shiffrin’s disaster and may even be overshadowed by the “US snowboarders other than Chloe Kim can’t qualify” story, but it’s something for US fans to celebrate in a week that hasn’t been what they’ve hoped.
Can Colby Stevenson get a medal? It’s looking more likely. Sweden’s Oliwer Magnusson has a nice-looking tail grab and gets a 90.75, good but not enough to pass the American.
Norway’s Birk Ruud has clinched a medal and will almost certainly take gold. The next two to go, Italy’s Leonardo Donaggio and Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut, will need to go well over 90 to beat Stevenson …
Alex Hall is up, up, away … and he just never looked like he was in control. He went off-axis and never returned to on-axis. We’re told it was an attempt at a 2160, which is six full rotations.
Four to go.
The last run of the big air competition goes in reverse order of the current standings.
The third man to go, Spain’s Javier Lliso, won’t medal, but he has a happy moment with friends and family back home via the screen setup at the finish.
Next up: the USA’s Colby Stevenson. That looked impressive. Might that get him in contention?
How does anyone judge this sport? In the women’s event, Gu and Ledeux were obviously better than the rest. Here? They’re all landing 1620s and 1800s.
But this 1800 is indeed enough to get Stevenson into contention. It’s a 91.25. His best two add up to a 183.00, second to Birk Ruud.
Another question: How do these guys not get hurt? Well, they do, on occasion, but the angle of the landing slope and their helmets must be pretty good if people like Norway’s Christian Nummedal can just walk away from faceplants like that.
Canada’s Evan McEachran also can’t stick the landing.
Six skiers to go. We might see a US medal here.
The women’s slalom first run is still going, but we’re very much into the “participation trophy” phase of the competition. Next up is Iran’s Atefeh Ahmadi, and while it’s tempting to be snarky about the snail’s pace she’s setting on her way to finishing nearly 20 seconds behind the leader, it’s impossible not to applaud the effort.
Besides, she has 30,300 followers on Instagram.
Big air standings
Two runs down, one to go. Top two runs count.
187.75 Birk Ruud (NOR)
176.00 Henrik Harlaut (SWE)
172.00 Leonardo Donaggio (ITA)
166.50 Oliwer Magnusson (SWE)
160.75 Alex Hall (USA)
It’s still wide-open, at least for silver and bronze. Any of the top 10 have a mathematical chance at the podium.
Catching Rudd? Good luck with that.
Alex Hall has just landed a big air trick that most mortals cannot, especially given the fact that they are, indeed, mortals. He skis down the ramp without poles, which lets him grab one ski with both hands like a pole dancer. (In keeping with the American slump, my metaphors are getting worse.)
Hall lands perfectly and smiles as he gets a 92.50.
Maybe it’s because I live in an English-speaking country that isn’t Canada, or maybe it’s an idiosyncrasy of the schedule that has little action going on at the moment, but it just feels like everything has deflated this evening.
Norway’s Christian Nummedal might disagree, having just attempted the same jump he tried in the first run but doing it much, much better. He gets a 93.00. He’ll need another good one, of course, to contend.
And finally, for the first time since Chloe Kim’s first run (which, by her standards, was rather pedestrian), an American favorite does something special. Colby Stevenson gets a 91.75 on his second effort in big air.
How do people land backwards? Intentionally? That boggles my mind.
Canada’s Evan McEachran just flew too close to the sun, going for an 1800 (five rotations) with a double grab. Can’t stick the landing. But his 93.00 in the first run will leave him in contention if he cleanly lands on his third attempt.
The first run of men’s big air is complete, and it’s … Scandinavian. The last skier to go was Norway’s Birk Ruud, who takes the lead with a 95.75. Second is Canadian Evan McEachran, then Italy’s Leonardo Donaggio, then three Swedish skiers.
At seventh, Alex Hall is the highest placed of the three Americans.
Three runs, top two count.
At this hour …
The women’s halfpipe qualifiers include three Chinese riders (Cai Xuetong, Liu Jiayu, Qiu Leng), three Japanese riders (Mitsuki Ono, Sena Tomita, Ruki Tomita) and two Canadians (Elizabeth Hosking, Brooke Dhondt). The rest are from Spain (the ageless Queralt Castellet), Switzerland (Berenice Wicki), Germany (Leilani Ettel) and the USA (Chloe Kim).
In women’s slalom, the Vlhova-Shiffrin showdown has melted away. Shiffrin is out, and Vlhova is eighth. American Paula Moltzan is a surprising sixth. Germany’s Lena Duerr, the first skier on the course, still leads. Next up: Michelle Gisin (SUI) and Sara Hector (SWE).
The snowboardcross seeding run is underway, but with more than an hour to go until men’s halfpipe qualifiers and 2 1/2 hours until the second run in the slalom, the event to watch is the men’s freestyle skiing big air. So let’s go to the Power Station, a name I fully intend to popularize, and watch ..
Continuing with halfpipe qualification …
Tessa Maud (USA) is out, falling on the first hit of her run.
Emily Arthur (AUS) is out, losing control in the air.
Canada’s Elizabeth Hosking is in, which bumps out Maddie Mastro (USA).
Zoe Kalapos (USA) is out.
At this point, you couldn’t blame NBC if they just cut to reruns of Jessie Diggins and Ryan Cochran-Siegle.
Changes in the standings in the second run in women’s halfpipe with a few athletes yet to go …
Liu Jiayu recovered from her first-run fall to post a 72.25. She has qualified for the final.
Maddie Mastro is hanging on to 12th with five riders left, including Emily Arthur, Tessa Maud and Zoe Kalapos.
Could Chloe Kim end up as the only American in the halfpipe final?
Twitter is really, really angry with NBC right now for its Shiffrin coverage, particularly given the focus on mental health that came with Simone Biles’ story last summer.
Let’s hop back to the halfpipe …
How unlikely was Shiffrin’s back-to-back flameout?
Slalom is inherently an event of risk and reward. But the risk rarely catches up with Shiffrin.
To wit …
That’s the cruelty of the Olympics. Shiffrin is on pace to win her fourth overall World Cup championship. She has six world championships. She may break the World Cup wins record by the time her career is done.
But in the Games, it’s one slip, and you’re out.
As if to illustrate the point, Chloe Kim crashed in her second halfpipe run. It won’t affect her qualifying prospects, but it’s a reminder that mistakes can happen to anyone, any time. Snowboarders, at least, get more than one chance.
It’s worse when your sport doesn’t get any attention outside the Olympics. Consider Lindsey Jacobellis. She’s a five-time world champion in snowboardcross. She won the X Games 10 times, and then they cut her event. But to casual observers, she’s the person who was about to win gold in 2006 but did a hot-dogging grab on the last jump, leaving her to scramble for silver.
She’s still competing and will go later today/tonight.
MIKAELA SHIFFRIN IS OUT!
Didn’t even make four gates. Her Olympics good hardly be going any worse.
Quickly back to halfpipe to run through the first run results. Again — best of two runs counts, top 12 make the final …
1. Chloe Kim (USA) 87.75
2. Cai Xuetong (CHN) 83.25
3. Mitsuki Ono (JPN) 79.50
4. Queralt Castellet (ESP) 78.75
8. Brooke Dhondt (CAN) 69.25
10. Maddie Mastro (USA) 65.75
12. Emily Arthur (AUS) 62.50
Americans Tessa Maud and Zoe Kalapos will need to improve to make it through.
Here goes Vlhova, and though she seems aggressive, she’s far off the pace of the first skier down the hill, Germany’s Lena Duerr.
That’s a shocker. It’s one thing for an elite skier to miss a gate in the complicated calculus of risk and reward. It’s another to just be slower.
Back to the halfpipe briefly to catch up with Australia’s Emily Arthur, who has a solid but unspectacular run to land right on the bubble in 12th place. That’s two ahead of the USA’s Tessa Maud.
The last American, Zoe Kalapos, gets virtually no height on her first few hits and then badly bungles an effort to go big.
FIVE MINUTES UNTIL THE SLALOM and the showdown between Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova. We won’t have to wait long — Vlhova is up second, Shiffrin seventh. One interesting note from the international broadcasters — each of their coaches set part of the course today.
The second run is at 12:45 am ET, so get your caffeine now.
But I just have this feeling that we’re going to see some mistakes and upsets.
This is one of those events that goes for inclusion, so we’ll have 88 skiers.
Jenise Spiteri is the only athlete from Malta in these Olympics. She is, as you might expect, originally American, having grown up as an actor and model in California. Another fun item from her bio — she lives in a van she and her dad converted into a tiny home.
She also puts a lot of effort into YouTube videos.
Her first run was a 7.25, which we’ll assume means she crashed. We assume because it happened during a commercial break or a feature of some kind.
Ten riders have gone. For those of you whose national language is the one in which you’re reading this, the athletes of interest in the start order are:
17. Brooke Dhondt (CAN)
18. Tessa Maud (USA)
19. Emily Arthur (AUS)
20. Elizabeth Hosking (CAN)
21. Zoe Kalapos (USA)
Another of the American contingent, Maddie Mastro, has two world championship medals and is the first woman to land a double crippler 900 in competition, which involves being head-down at some point. But this is a lackluster run full of far simpler tricks than Kim and Castellet, and she also puts a hand down on a landing.
It’s a mixed bag for the Chinese contingent so far. Cai Xuetong stands second behind Kim, but Wu Shaotong joined Liu in crashing hard. Fortunately, neither athlete appears injured.
Chloe Kim opens by making a 12-foot-11 parabola out of the halfpipe and a 900 look like riding a tricycle. That’s an 87.75, which will probably get her through to the final already. Smile, wave, have a nice day.
(That said, Spain’s Queralt Castellet opens her fifth Olympics with some dazzling spins, including a 900 and an upward flight of more than 20 feet. Somehow, that’s only 78.75.)
And away we go …
Halfpipe qualification in a nutshell: Two runs, best one counts, top 12 go to final.
We start with a crash by China’s Liu Jiayu, the 2018 silver medalist.
Next up, the gold medalist from four years ago, the USA’s Chloe Kim …
And … my feed just froze.
At this hour …
There’s nothing going on. It’s the break between mixed doubles and unmixed quadruples curling, so the schedulers in Beijing have nothing to offer at 9 am their time.
But in 30 minutes, we’ll have the women’s halfpipe (snowboard, not ski) qualification rounds. In another 45 minutes, we’ll have the first run of the women’s slalom (ski, not snowboard). Then we’re back to Big Air Shougang, the post-industrial big air venue we should really start calling the Power Station.
OK, let’s take a calming breath.
Phew. Feel better?
The purpose of that mini-meditation is to cleanse your thoughts of the 300 thinkpieces you’ve read today about Eileen Gu, a majestic freestyle skiing star who may win multiple golds in Beijing and is somehow simultaneously, according to the punditocracy, both a brilliant and savvy young woman who has parlayed her multicultural heritage into a dual-country financial and athletic empire AND an unwitting, naive tool of the Chinese government, the IOC and the judges who ranked her ahead of the unfortunate Tess Ledeux.
Granted, the latter is my fault. And Sean Ingle has written well about Gu’s adeptness at the first of the portrayals I’ve listed here.
But let’s take a moment to consider two underreported stories from yesterday …
First, Jessie Diggins is a badass. She and Kikkan Randall won gold in the 2018 Olympic team sprint while NBC’s Chad Salmela memorably yelled “HERE COMES DIGGINS! HERE COMES DIGGINS!” Yesterday, she became the first US woman to win a cross-country individual medal.
And most of all, let’s all marvel at how Nathan Chen set a world record in the figure skating short program while being harassed by a cat.
Coming up today
Times are all in local Beijing time. For Melbourne it is +3 hours, for London it is -8 hours, for New York it is -13 hours and Los Angeles is -16 hours.
- 9.30am – 3.45pm Snowboard – there is a lot of action on Wednesday, including women’s and men’s halfpipe qualification. The women’s cross final is the session finale 🥇
- 10.15am and 1.45pm – the women’s slalom is contested over two runs 🥇
- 11am Freestyle skiing – it is the freeski big air day for men 🥇
- 3pm, 4pm and 7pm Nordic combined – this should be great, as the ski jumping trial round and competition round are followed in the early evening with the 10km cross-country 🥇
- 4.40pm and 9.10pm Ice hockey – the men’s competition begins with two group B match-ups: ROC v Switzerland followed by Czech Republic v Denmark 🏒
- 7pm – 9.20pm Short track speed skating – for women there are 1,000m heats and the 3,000m semi-finals, for men the 1500m goes from quarter-finals all the way to the final 🥇
- 8.05pm Curling – the round-robin stage gets under way in the men’s competition 🥌
- 8.20pm Luge – two runs at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre will decide the doubles medals 🥇