ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Chinese teen Su Yiming won first place in the men’s snowboard slopestyle qualifiers at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday, advancing to the final along with one of his childhood heroes, Canadian veteran Mark McMorris.
The 17-year old Chinese snowboarder, who is making his Olympic debut in Beijing, stunned with a 86.80 point run out of the gate, edging past McMorris, who recovered from a shaky first run with 83.30 points in his second try.
“It is a very rare experience competing against my childhood heroes,” Su said.
Su said he still had more advanced tricks up his sleeve ahead of the men’s final on Monday.
“It’s cool to see him (Su) rise to the occasion with all the pressure of being in China and to land that good of a run in his first go is pretty impressive, and I look forward to a battle with him tomorrow,” McMorris said.
McMorris, who has two Olympic bronze medals from the Sochi Games and Pyeongchang in 2018, told reporters ahead of the qualifiers that his goal was to “change the shade of my previous bronzes” into silver or gold.
American Sean FitzSimons, who like Su is making his Olympic debut, said he eased into the final by sticking to his staple jumps.
“I think it’s probably going to be one of the heaviest slope contests ever,” FitzSimons said about Monday’s final, adding that he expected to see incredible riding from his rivals.
FitzSimons said he was having a good competition season after he stopped worrying about judges and returned to enjoying riding again.
“I just stopped worrying about what I got, what the judges gave me,” he said. “I’m not going to think about what anyone else is doing, I’m going to do me and hopefully put one down.”
The 21-year old won the slopestyle contest at the Laax Open in Switzerland in January.
Redmond Gerard of the United States, who won gold in 2018, came in fifth in the qualifiers.
Sebastien Toutant from Canada said it was a different experience not having his family and friends accompany him to the Olympics as they did to the Pyeongchang Games.
“What makes the Olympics special is having my family come watch me, they don’t get to do that at every contest and being able to represent your country,” he said. Toutant came in eighth and will be advancing to the final.
Weather conditions were challenging at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, with boarders flying over hard packed snow and air temperature dropping to -20.9 degree Celsius.
Sunday’s top 12 snowboarders will compete in Monday’s final.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Shri Navaratnam)