"Two triples? We'll see," says Parrot, who has ridden in the shadow of his Canadian teammates, Mark McMorris and Toutant, for the past few years. But in the past month, he's ditched their shadows for the spotlight. "We saw Max do two triples at X, and we know the last jump here is trip-able," Toutant says. "On the other two, you'll just have to spin faster. We'll see on Saturday. But no one will go for a safe run in finals."
Nor did they on Thursday. With the everyone-moves-on format used in this first round of competition (see below for an explanation of the competition format), the men (and women) used their second runs as though they were the second run of finals -- some, like McMorris, because they needed to do so.
After falling on his first of two runs, McMorris stood at the top of the course contemplating what it would take to break into the top four and move directly into the finals. He knew that doing so would mean taking Saturday morning's semis off, resting and not having to endure two extra runs on the same day as finals with a broken rib, an injury he sustained at X Games two weeks ago. He needed higher than a 91.25 to bump Gjermund Braaten of Norway into fifth, and believed he had the run to do so. After a solid rail section, a cab double cork 900 and frontside double cork 1080, McMorris landed a backside triple cork 1440 and celebrated what he thought was a top-four run.
"I thought for sure I was going to be in," McMorris said after his seventh-place score of 89.25 was announced. "To land a really good run I was proud of, with one of the only legit triple corks of the day, and not even come close, it's pretty ridiculous. I didn't think my run was less technical, and it sure as heck wasn't sketchy. It felt solid and clean. It's a shock to the heart. Right now, I'm hurting mentally more than anything."
Back in the States, snowboard fans stayed up late to watch the event live and didn't hide their feelings about McMorris' score on social media. Between the inconsistent judging (at times, judges rewarded flat spins over corked spins; at others, they appeared to focus solely on the jump section and sometimes seemed to reverse course altogether) and a webcast that was difficult to follow, fans at home likely were left disappointed.
But, as McMorris said before heading back to the athletes village to regroup: "The positive is that I have another shot on Saturday. Qualifiers is behind us now, and I need to look positively to the future."
Qualifiers (Thursday): Two qualification heats; the top four qualify directly to the final. The remaining riders qualify to the semifinal.
Riders who qualified directly to finals:
1. Staale Sandbech, Norway
2. Peetu Piiroinen, Finland
3. Sebastien Toutant, Canada
4. Jamie Nicholls, Great Britain
1. Max Parrot, Canada
2. Roope Tonteri, Finland
3. Sven Thorgren, Sweden
4. Gjermund Braaten, Norway