American teenagers and reigning AFP halfpipe world champions Torin Yater-Wallace and Devin Logan swept the first World Cup freeskiing contest of the 2014 Olympic qualifying period Wednesday in New Zealand. Each won comfortably on a bluebird day at Cardrona Alpine Resort, which is hosting the New Zealand Winter Games pipe events.
The duo, both riding Armada skis, posted their winning scores on their second and final trips down the pipe. Yater-Wallace's triumphant run scored 93 points, three higher than runner-up Thomas Krief of France and nearly nine points better than Frenchman Benoit Valentin, who took third. Three Americans finished in the top six, including Christian Allen and Walter Wood in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Yater-Wallace, skiing with his goggles up despite the glare, executed a versatile run that began with a right double cork 1260 mute into an alley-oop flat spin 540, 900 tail, 1080 tail and a switch right 900 mute.
"I was very nervous this morning, but I kind of feed off that feeling," the 16-year-old said in a video interview posted by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. "I like the feeling of being afraid. Having to be under pressure builds up the nerves in me and almost makes me ski better."
For Logan, 19, her winning score of 83.2 distanced her from a pair of Japanese upstarts who surprised the field to fill the other two podium places. Manami Mitsuboshi took second (80.0) and Ayana Onozuka claimed third (78.6), two points ahead of Kiwi hometown favorite and big-mountain specialist Janina Kuzma.
After clipping the deck and falling on her first run, Logan -- who was a whopping seven points better than the field in her qualifying heat -- strung together a second run that included a 540 tail, flair, mute straight air, alley oop mute, 720 mute into a switch alley oop 360.
"I just wanted to come back and stomp a run," Logan said. "All the girls were killing it. I'm stoked to see the progression. I'm happy; a little lucky but happy. I came in with high expectations, which actually helped. But there is definitely a lot to improve on."
Among other notables, two-time defending AFP overall world champion Gus Kenworthy failed to land a run in the men's final and placed 11th, and Kiwi local Jossi Wells, the 2010 AFP overall and halfpipe champ, took seventh.
In the big picture of Olympic qualifying, Wednesday's competition was the first opportunity for athletes to earn points toward their nations' quota that will guarantee countries a certain number of start spots in the 2014 Olympics. Although each skier must meet minimum standards to be eligible to compete in Sochi, individual qualifying won't heat up until 2013.
The next halfpipe World Cup is set for Park City, Utah, the third week of December, while the first slopestyle World Cup of the Olympic qualifying period will take place Sept. 7 in Ushuaia, Argentina. Competition continues down under with the New Zealand Freeskiing Open at Snow Park one week from now.