• Kyodo

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Japan’s Yugo Tsukita all but clinched a spot in the Turin Olympics after finishing runnerup in the season-opening men’s moguls event on the freestyle skiing World Cup circuit on Wednesday.

News photoJapan’s Yugo Tsukita speeds to a second-place finish at the season-opening men’s moguls event on the freestyle skiing World Cup circuit.

Tsukita finished just 0.01 point behind winner Tapio Luusua of Finland, who earned a total of 25.64 points from three elements — turns, air maneuvers and time — for his second career World Cup victory and first in three seasons. Finland’s Sami Mustonen took third with 25.44.

“I was doing well in turns and it made me focus more on airs. I thought it would be good for me to go through to the final and I never thought I would make the podium,” said Tsukita, who scraped into the 12-man final after placing 11th in the qualifying round.

With his first podium finish in four seasons, Tsukita took a big step toward making his third straight Olympic appearance.

Japanese compatriot Osamu Ueno finished 10th with 21.64.

Yu Masukawa, Hiroki Nonogaki and Kai Ozaki were eliminated in the qualifying round.

Earlier, Olympic medal hopeful Aiko Uemura, who has already secured a place in Japan’s Olympic team, picked up an injury during a practice run and withdrew from the women’s moguls season opener.

Fellow Japanese Miyuki Hatanaka and Miki Ito both failed to advance to the women’s final.

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