After stumbling on his first run, Aussie Scotty James has pulled off something special in the snowboard half-pipe final. Can anyone catch him? LIVE UPDATES
1.34pm: Okay, four runs down only eight to go. Scotty James is still in the gold medal position. The pressure is getting to these guys as they all know they have to go big or go home. Shaun White is still the danger man. He’s currently in fourth and don’t forget, he dropped a 97.75 four years ago to snatch gold with his last run. Jan Scherrer has fallen on his first trick. He’s still in third and tentatively got his hands on the bronze medal. Seven riders still to go…
1.27pm: We now have 12 runs to go to see who wins gold. Is this Australia’s moment? Can Scotty James win gold? Get behind him Australia — this is history in the making.
1.26pm: Okay, calm the nerves. We are so so close to Australia’s second gold medal on the Beijing Olympic Games. Scotty James leads after the second run with 92.50. Japan’s gold medal favourite Ayumu Hirano is second with 91.75 and Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer is currently in the bronze position with 87.25 points.
JAMES’ SECOND RUN:
1.22pm: Scotty has nailed it! What a run. Try to keep up here, but this is gonna be huge. A 92.50 that puts him in the gold medal position.!!Scotty nailed a frontside 1440 with his final trick to put the heat on everyone else. Is that the gold medal run? He has the top score in the bag and now the pressure is on everyone else to match his excellence. “Scotty James has just thrown down one of the most crazy technical runs we have ever seen.”
1.18pm: Here comes the GOAT. US star Shaun White has just dropped a 85.00, jumping up to second This is White’s last Olympics – can he win a fourth gold medal? He’ll need to go bigger and better on the final run for the fairytale. Aussie Guseli now drops out of the medals with one run to go.
GUSELI’S SECOND RUN:
1.14pm: Aussie kid Valentino Guseli has nailed it. What a run. This kid has ice running through his veins. He’d dropped from second to fourth before his second run but just like that he drops a stunning run of 79.75 to jump back up into the bronze medal position.
1.09pm: Japan’s Kaishu Hirano had a crazy run but on his last trick he failed to stick the landing, falling heavily on his shoulder. His score of 37.75 showed that if he can complete a full run, his scores could push into the medals.
1.04pm: Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer has rocketed into the lead, his 87.25 score on the second run putting him into the gold medal position with the top riders still with two runs to go.
1pm: Take a breath Australia. There’s two more runs to go. Scotty James still has an opportunity to win gold while young Val is looking the goods too. At the 2018 Winter Olympics legend Shaun White waited til his last run to snatch gold with an epic 97.75 score, while Ayumu Hirano claimed silver in 95.25 and Scotty James took bronze in 2018 with 92.00 points. So – there’s lots of high scores still to drop in this final.
12.57pm: Wow. Japan’s Ayumu Hirano has nailed a frontside triple cork — only the second time it’s ever happened in a competition — but has fallen later in his run missing out on a massive chance to post a huge first round score. Ayumu scored 33.75, but needs a perfect run to post a massive score. American Taylor Gold is the early front runner with 81.75 as Australia’s Valentino Guseli sits in second place.
JAMES’ FIRST RUN:
12.54pm: Australia’s Scotty James fell on his second trick — a switch back cav — to fail to post a decent score on his first run. The triple Olympian is throwing it all on the line but now has two high pressure runs to save his campaign. Only the highest score from the competitors three runs counts, so James just needs to nail one of his last two attempts to claim gold.
12.50pm: Japan’s Ruka Hirano, who is unrelated to gold medal favourite Ayumu Hirano, fell after failing to land his second trick on his first run. He still has two runs to post a competitive score.
12.49pm: American legend Shaun White, the triple Olympic gold medallist, put down a solid marker with his first run but only scored 72.00 points to be fourth, with three men still to go. American Taylor Gold is the early leader with an 81.75.
GUSELI’S FIRST RUN:
12.44pm: Aussie 16-year-old Valentino Guseli made a solid start to his final, posting a score 75.75 to move into second position with the four highest seeds still to go in the opening round. The teen is known as such a big aerialist that the television cameras appeared to miss half of his run as he launched out of camera view.
12.38pm: Japan’s Kaishu Hirano made a stunning start to the snowboard half-pipe final soaring to 6.1m above the half-pipe on his opening trick. on the way to a 75.50 score to set the early pace. Australia’s teen star Valentino Guseli is yet to jump but holds the record of 7.3m air. Kaishu is the younger brother of gold medal favourite Ayumu who will be the last of the 12 finalists to jump. Commentators are now questioning if the measuring stick was broken for Kaishu as his first air was considered the highest they’ve seen at the Olympics in Beijing so far.
12.19pm: Scotty James’ moment of truth has almost arrived.
One of the favourites to win the gold medal in the men’s half-pipe at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the scene is set for him to succeed.
The bitter cold that left competitors shivering in Beijing has been replaced by perfect blues skies in the Zhangjiakou mountains where the snowboarding half-pipe final is about to start.
James is one of just 12 men through to the final.
Each of the finalists will get three runs down the icy tube with their best score from any of the runs.
With an assortment of tricks in his armoury, James is one of the favourites to win the gold after qualifying second.
His biggest rival is Japanese sensation Ayumu Hirano but defending champion Shaun White cannot be discounted. Nor can rising Aussie teenage star Valentino Guseli.
This will get confusing, but top-seed Ayumu Hirano is not related to No.3-seed Ruka Hirano — but Kaishua Hirano is the brother of Ayumu.
With the order decided on qualifying, James will go second last, just before Ayumu Hirano.
The three rounds are expected to take about an hour to complete.
Scotty’s chance at Olympic glory
Scotty James is among the favourites to win the gold medal in the half-pipe at the Beijing Winter Olympics today.
The greatest male snowboarder Australia has produced, James won a bronze four years ago and already has a stockpile of world and X Games titles – but the Olympic gold is the crown jewel missing from his collection.
WINTER OLYMPICS LIVE: Follow Scotty James and Valentino Guseli in the men’s half-pipe final here from 12.30pm AEDT
On form, he’s got a great shot at winning because he is able to perform a series of death-defying tricks that the judges love and will reward highly.
If he nails them all, it will take an extraordinary performance from his rivals to beat him, but he’s up against a star-studded field and the pressure is intense because the rewards are life-changing and it’s also a dangerous sport.
Also in the field is Aussie young Valentino Guseli, who is billed as snowboarding’s best kept secret. Guseli is known among the riders as someone so exciting he will change the sport – he is also just 16.
Looming large over all is American legend Shaun White.
The three-time Olympic champion — who is twice the age of some of his rivals — will retire from competition after Beijing and is determined to go out with a bang.
Why Winter Olympics moment brought NRL hardman to tears
By Dean Ritchie
He was the hardened prop who won an NRL premiership, played State of Origin and represented Australia.
Yet on Wednesday night, big Michael Weyman was reduced to tears.
The former Dragons, Blues and Kangaroos forward had just watched his 16-year-old nephew – Valentino Guseli – qualify for the Olympic final of the men’s snowboard half-pipe at Beijing.
Guseli, who qualified fifth, will fight out a 12-man final on Friday for an Olympic medal.
WINTER OLYMPICS LIVE: Follow Scotty James and Valentino Guseli in the men’s half-pipe final here from 12.30pm AEDT
A proud Weyman, who helped St George Illawarra win the 2010 NRL grand final, was there when Guseli was born and also when the youngster first hit the snow.
Guseli’s mother Kristen is sister to Weyman’s wife Alison. Mick and Alison married a week after Saints’ 2010 grand final win, nuptials a four-year-old Valentino attended.
The close-knit family from NSW’s south coast have marvelled at Guseli’s path to an Olympic final.
“To be honest, I shed a tear when he qualified for the final,” Weyman said. “I got quite emotional. He has the world at his feet.
“Valentino and I are really close – I spoke to him straight after he qualified.
“Geez he’s a good kid. He is a bloody cracker. He comes from good stock.
“I’ve told him over the years to keep doing what’s he’s doing and to enjoy it; have a grin from ear-to-ear and never forget where you’ve come from. He is a really good listener and now he’s in an Olympic final.
“When he was first born, I was at the Raiders and was out for the whole year with an ankle injury. We went to the snow for a couple of days because I just wanted something to do.
“There was this kid who first got on his snowboard. I was there for his first go. He took to it like s —t to a blanket. I thought ‘oh my God’ and I have been there ever since.
“We see each at Christmas and all the family events but he’s been overseas for a fair while now. He is one of those kids that chases his dreams and obviously he can’t do that in Australia.”
Asked if an Olympic medal would outdo his premiership ring, Weyman said: “I guarantee you it will. I was 26 years old when I won that competition and that meant the world to me. But Valentino is still a kid. When I was 16, I was still at school and hadn’t done anything.”
Chinese skater trolls frozen out on social media
Chinese social media site Weibo has deleted more than 41,000 posts and suspended or permanently removed 850 accounts after a torrent of messages criticising an athlete perceived to have failed during the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Zhu Yi, 19, a Chinese figure skater, was subjected to widespread “cyber-bullying” after she fell twice on the ice and ended her performance in tears on Monday. Her errors quickly became a hot online topic with comments demanding that she get out of the country.
Zhu’s detractors took issue with her US upbringing and her decision to compete for China.
They accused her of joining the national team at the expense of a home-born favourite and suggested corruption was involved in her selection. They also mocked Zhu’s poor language skills.
Weibo’s content reviewers removed posts deemed vitriolic against Zhu and deleted negative tags about her.
In a statement, the social media site advised users to be more sympathetic.
“There are always winners and losers in competitive sports, and everyone who has tried is a hero,” the microblogging site said.
“We call on the public not to attack and insult athletes over their errors.”
State media also came out to defend Zhu and urged the public to “understand and respect” athletes who didn’t perform well. Another social media site, Douyin, said that it would “severely crack down on cyber-bullying and disinformation targeted at athletes”.
Zhu acknowledged that negative online comments had put pressure on her.
However, Gu Ailing, another Chinese athlete who also was born and grew up in the US, argued that more than 90 per cent of the comments about Zhu were “positive and uplifting”.
China’s internet is one of the most censored in the world but cyber-bullying remains a problem as censors focus primarily on speech deemed unfriendly to the ruling party and its government, rather than mean-spirited remarks directed at individuals.
Go big, then go home: Aussie phenom plots final shock
By Jacquelin Magnay
Valentino Guseli is billed as snowboarding’s best kept secret. He is known among the riders as someone so exciting he will change the sport.
Yet “call me Val or Valentino, it doesn’t matter’’ is just 16 years old.
He hails from Dalmeny on the south coast of NSW where locals often drive past a handmade ramp and jump with big airbags built by Guseli’s grandfather, Guido, in his backyard down the road at Kianga. There was a small set too with the local council, but the temporary structure, as impressive as it is, is nothing like the expensive flash Geoff Henke Training facility water ramp in Brisbane.
On Friday all of that home grown practice will be drawn upon when Guseli is in the finals of the Beijing Olympic half-pipe competition.
The youngster regathered from a glitch in his first run on Wednesday, a sequence he had landed perfectly countless times before, to qualify fifth from the qualifying rounds, for the finals.
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Guseli told News Corp Australia that when he soars more than 7m into the air — he beat the world record for amplitude held by the famous American rider Shaun White last year — he feels he is flying.
“You’re just looking down on the half-pipe and as much as it is very dangerous — it’s a very painful place out there you know — you have to be at peace with yourself to be able to go out there,’’ he said.
“One little mistake can be not very much fun.’’
Guseli would know.
Last year he mistimed a trick in Saas-Fee, catching the edge of the half-pipe edge and smashing his forearm.
He was out for more than five weeks and that time being sidelined reinvigorated his love for the sport, triggered when he was an infant and his dad Ricardo and mother Kristen took him to the snow at Perisher and Thredbo.
Dressed in a bright orange one piece, Guseli became known as that flying kid around the slopes, often being the extra and roaring past the snow reports being aired.
But as natural a talent as he is, Guseli is polite and engaging with none of the ego expected of someone already signed to some big snowboarding contracts.
Ricardo has video from when Guseli was little more than a toddler, where he would stack three skateboards on top of each other to balance upon, for clearly riding one was not a sufficient challenge.
“When I was three my dad took me to the snow and I had gear to hop on for the first time and I just loved it, it was really fun and it was a bit of a challenge to get good at it,” he said.
Guseli says for all of his amplitude in the half-pipe he hasn’t yet mastered the triple cork, the terrify new trick where the riders are unable to safely withdraw if something goes wrong.
So his plan is to go big, very big.
Australia’s big medal hope Scotty James and some of the Japanese riders including the main threat Ayuma Hirano have performed the triple, which is three head over heel spins while twisting at the same time.
But even they are coy about whether they will need to pull it out of the bag to win the gold medal in Friday’s final.
Guseli says he will be content if he can be the highest flying snowboarder in the final and he may pull out a couple of different tricks, although he wanted to talk to his coach first before deciding the routine.
He said: “Hopefully I will have a bit more amplitude and I might up some of the tricks a bit and we will see. We will see where we end up.’’
Originally published as Winter Olympics live schedule: Men’s half-pipe final, Scotty James, Shaun White