Chloe Kim qualifies top in halfpipe at Snowboard World Championships

Elsewhere, Youth Olympic Games star Gu Ailing Eileen leads the women's freeski slopestyle after qualifiers. Scotty James topped the men's snowboard halfpipe qualifying.

By ZK Goh & Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Olympic champion Chloe Kim will go into Saturday's FIS World Freeski and Snowboard Championships halfpipe final as the top qualifier after comfortably seeing off the rest of the field in Thursday's (11 March) qualifying round in Aspen, Colorado.

The American's best score from her two runs was 93.75, but in a show of her dominance, even her weaker score of 89.25 would have out-qualified second-placed Queralt Castellet (86.50) representing Spain.

Kim's teammate Maddie Mastro was third with a score of 80.75.

Japan will be able to count on four of the eight finalists after Tomita Sena, Matsumoto Haruna, Ono Mitsuki, and Imai Kurumi all made the cut.

Elizabeth Hosking of Canada completes tomorrow's final.

Chloe Kim: 'I feel super grateful'

"It feels good," Kim said afterwards of being back in Aspen.

"Kind of crazy because we are normally done competing at this time of year, but I feel super grateful that we were able to pull together the last few contests of the season.

"It’s a littler cooler today so the pipe keeps it shape and it’s really fun to ride," she added.

Freeski slopestyle: Big day for Gu, Hamill

In the women's freeski slopestyle, Youth Olympic Games champion Gu Ailing Eileen has qualified for her second final.

The Chinese skier, who has also qualified for Friday's freeski halfpipe, scored 84.51 on her second run down the slopestyle course to top the standings.

Like Kim, Gu's weaker run (77.41) would still have seen her finish top.

Marin Hamill of hosts USA qualified second with a 75.78, while Mathilde Gremaud (75.50) of Switzerland placed third.

The other finalists are Megan Oldham (Canada), Kirsty Muir (Great Britain), Tess Ledeux (France), Lara Wolf (Austria), and Sandra Eie (Norway).

"It feels really good," Gu told the media after her run.

"I love Aspen so much, especially coming out of X Games, and the courses here and the course builders are absolutely amazing, phenomenal.

"There is a chance of snow on finals day so I definitely do have to take weather and safety into account, but if it’s like today definitely look out for some doubles, step ups on the rails and a whole lot of fun."

Snowboard halfpipe: Scotty James out in front

Australia's Scotty James, meanwhile, topped the scoresheets in qualifying for the men's snowboard halfpipe with a score of 94.25.

He put in two solid 90-plus runs to outdo Japanese rival Totsuka Yuto (89.75), who had beaten the Australian twice earlier this year.

Speaking to the Olympic Channel recently, James said: "Ideally, every single time you want to finish at the top of the podium, you know, it was definitely tough [losing]."

There was none of that today as Totsuka just failed to pip James, who will now look to end his losing run against the Japanese on Saturday.

“I’m very happy to be in Aspen. I always love competing here," James told reporters after qualifying. "It’s pretty special to all of us. The pipe’s riding fantastic and feels like spring time so no complaints. The vibe has been good. This year has obviously been very different with preparation and we are all staying COVID safe and socially distant but that has not stopped the banter up top which is always nice and a part of snowboarding that will forever be around.”

Men's freeski slopestyle qualification: Hall excels

In the men's freeski slopestyle qualification, American Alexander Hall came out on top with a 92.25.

Switzerland's Andri Ragettli was second at 91.00, while Evan McEachran of Canada finished third with a 89.50.

Gus Kenworthy, the Sochi 2014 medallist, did not start in the event.

"We had some great slush the past couple of days. It snowed a little and was supposed to be cloudy today but the sun came out so it’s been super sick…. The course is dope," Hall said. "They switched it up from X Games which is pretty sweet. We’re riding some different rails and jumps so it’s refreshing for sure."

James Woods of the U.K. was fourth in qualifying. The Briton just missed out on the podium at PyeongChang 2018, finishing fourth.

The top 12 men qualified for Saturday's final.