American-born Eileen Gu of China put down a pair of smooth, seemingly effortless runs Thursday during the qualifying round in halfpipe, topping the 20-skier field with the only two scores over 90 to make a third final at her debut Winter Olympics.
With two medals already in possession heading into arguably her best event, the 18-year-old hit back-to-back 900s, a 720, a switch 360 and two alley-oops to score a 93.75 on her first run, then upped the 900 Buick trick to a cork and the final alley-oop to a 540 flat spin on her second to improve to a 95.50.
"[I wasn't] going all out," Gu said. "I have a few more tricks I would like to have the opportunity to do [in the final] … I wanted to do that right 'oop 5, it's a new trick that I learned this season, and I felt like it would build confidence … I am happy I was able to do that."
Gu, halfpipe's reigning world champion and Youth Olympic gold medalist, captured the event's overall World Cup crystal globe last month after an undefeated season, with wins at the Copper Grand Prix, back-to-back Calgary Snow Rodeo contest and the Mammoth Grand Prix.
SEE MORE: China's Eileen Gu makes it look easy in halfpipe qualifying
Canadian Rachael Karker, runner-up to Gu at the 2021 World Championships, threw down back-to-back 900s herself to record two scores in the high 80s and finish as the round's second-best skier.
Behind her in the No. 3 spot was slopestyle bronze medalist Kelly Sildaru, who strung together three straight 540s to score an 87.50 on her 20th birthday. She opted to skip her second run.
Americans Brita Sigourney, Hanna Faulhaber and Carly Margulies grabbed three of the last five spots, placing a respective eighth through 10th. PyeongChang bronze medalist Sigourney, who crashed during warmups, scored an 84.50 on Run 2, while Faulhaber and Margulies put up an 84.25 and an 82.25.
Vermonter and Sochi slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan, also competing on her birthday like Sildaru, just missed the 12-athlete cut in 13th.
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