PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Ikuma Horishima led a strong showing by the Japanese team during the first qualifying session for the men’s moguls final at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Horishima qualified in fifth with a score of 80.35. Compatriot Daichi Hara was sixth with 80.01. Sho Endo finished in 13th place with 75.73 points and failed to qualify in the first session, as did 16th-place finisher Nobuyuki Nishi, who had a score of 75.17.
“I was nervous and I was anxious, but I think I ended my performance with good momentum,” said Horishima, the reigning world champion and Asian Winter Games title holder. “I want to look at the video of my skiing and think of what I can do to improve. I will only concentrate on my skiing.”
Hara overcame a severe bout of nerves to log one of his most impressive career results, finishing just 0.34 behind his highly rated countryman.
“I’m really glad. I passed the point of being nervous and I was about to throw up. I’m telling myself that I need to take gold now that I’ll compete (in the final),” said Hara.
World No. 1 and gold medal favorite Mikael Kingsbury easily moved on to the final. The Canadian, a silver medalist in Sochi, Russia, four years ago, is the overwhelming favorite to claim victory in Monday’s final and looked comfortable as he scored 86.07 points to top the first qualifying round.
Kingsbury had said earlier in the week the cold conditions would suit him, yet the athletes were met with significantly warmer conditions on Friday with temperatures reaching a low of -2 C.
Horishima could be the only man with a chase of upsetting Kingsbury after he ended the 25-year-old’s almost year-long streak of World Cup wins in January and also clinched gold at the 2017 World Championships in Spain.
Olympic Athlete from Russia Aleksandr Smyshliaev was second on 83.93 points and Kazakh Dmitriy Reikherd (81.23) was third.
The top 10 skiers from the first round of qualifying automatically advanced to the final, with a second round of qualifying on Monday.
The 10 athletes with the lowest score after the qualifying rounds are eliminated.
Arisa Murata qualified for the women’s final with a score of 74.13 that was good enough for ninth place.
France’s Perrine Laffont finished on top of the standings in the first session, putting down a score of 79.72, edging out Canada’s Andi Naude (79.60) and American Morgan Schild (77.74).