• Kyodo, Reuters


Ayana Onozuka claimed her spot in the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe final at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, finishing fifth in the qualification round on Monday.

Onozuka, who earned bronze at the Sochi Olympics four years ago, scored 84.80 points in her second of two runs at Phoenix Snow Park to secure her place in the final along with 11 others, including Canada’s Cassie Sharpe who posted the highest qualifying score.

“The overall level is improving so it’s going to come down to whether I can keep up with that. (In the final) I hope to put everything out there, everything I’ve worked for,” Onozuka said.

Saori Suzuki and Yurie Watabe missed the cut after finishing 14th and 22nd, respectively, in a field of 24.

Watabe was hoping to medal in the final on Tuesday, the day her husband Akito competes in the Nordic combined large hill 10-km race in a bid for a second medal in Pyeongchang following his silver in the normal hill event.

“I wish I had another run. I wouldn’t say I felt like I was competing together (with Akito), but I’m able to be here today thanks to the support from all, including my family,” Watabe said.

Sharpe scored 93.00 on her first attempt and improved to 93.40 on her second to send a message to her rivals that she would be tough to beat in Tuesday’s final.

“I feel great and I feel confident,” Sharpe told reporters as she looked forward to being able to see all of her rivals ski ahead of her in the hunt for medals.

“The first run I just wanted to land, which is so key for my confidence. But after that I said I want to qualify in first because I want to drop last in the final.

“If you do well then you drop last in your victory lap, which is the best feeling in the world.”

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