NZ snowboarders miss out on direct path to final

HIGH HOPES: Shelly Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton, Christy Prior and Rebecca Torr of New Zealand.
HIGH HOPES: Shelly Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton, Christy Prior and Rebecca Torr of New Zealand.

New Zealand's 'Awesome Foursome' snowboarders have missed out on direct qualification for Sunday's final in the women's slopestyle event at the Sochi Winter Olympics, but will compete in the 'second chance' semi-finals earlier that day.

Rebecca Torr, Christy Prior, Stefi Luxton and Shelly Gotlieb all took part in the first heat of competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, but none finished in the top-four, which would give them an instant spot in the final, after their two runs.

The highest score from both runs was taken as the main qualifying result.

Torr finished the top Kiwi after two runs, finishing sixth in the 12-person heat with runs of 70.75 and 33.75.

Prior finished seventh with 67.50 and 70.50, while Luxton placed eighth with 59.75 and 34.25. Gotlieb finished 11th with two tough runs of 18.00 and 30.75.

Austria's Anna Gasser conquered her nerves to post a sizzling score of 95.50 and qualify for the women's snowboarding slopestyle Olympic final.

Earlier in the afternoon, Switzerland's Isabel Derungs topped the first heat, scoring 87.50 on her final run to push Australian Torah Bright into second place.

Also qualifying directly from the first heat were Canada's Spencer O'Brien and Enni Rukajarvi from Finland.

"I'm so relieved, it's like a big stone fell from my heart," Gasser told Reuters at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

"I was so nervous, I've never been that nervous in my life before. I'm straight to the finals, that's the best thing I could wish for," she added with a beaming smile.

"I won't be as nervous in the final, I'm already top 12 and that's a good result for me."

American Jamie Andersson had a scintillating run of her own but had to be content with second place with a score of 93.50, while Elena Koenz from Switzerland and American Karly Shorr also qualified automatically for Sunday's final.

Another US athlete, Ty Walker, rode down the side of the course and skipped her second run entirely due to injury.

"I have a bone bruise in my heel, I got it on the second day of practice, and each impact makes it a little worse," she told Reuters as she watched her team mates on their final runs.

"I figured that seeing as everyone makes it through to the semis on Sunday, I'd rather just preserve myself and give it my all for one day."

The top four from each heat went directly into the final, with the rest of the competitors going to a semi-final earlier that day to decide the remaining four places.

The opening ceremony for the Sochi Games, Russia's first winter Olympics, takes place on Friday (5am Saturday NZ time).

- Fairfax NZ, Reuters