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'I'm very lucky to be here'


IRELAND'S snowboarder Seamus O'Connor says he is delighted to be given the chance to represent Ireland in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

O'Connor finished 13th in the second heat of yesterday's slopestyle event after failing to land his final jump on both runs.

Nevertheless, the 16-year-old from San Diego, whose grandparents are Irish, will get another chance in tomorrow's semi-final.

"My dad's side of the family are from Ireland, I feel very Irish and am very lucky to be here," he said.

There were thrills, spills and plenty of nerves in the event and while much of the focus had been on athlete safety, most came away unscathed at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.



All eyes were on the course following Wednesday's withdrawal of American Shaun White, citing safety concerns, and the frightening crash that left Norway medal hope Torstein Horgmo with a broken collarbone.

But if any of the snowboarders were holding anything back on the sport's Olympic debut, they did not show it as they launched themselves spinning through the air to impress the judges. Australian Scotty James was left clutching his ribs after a heavy fall and Norway's Kjersti Buaas had to seek medical attention following a wipeout on her final run in the women's second heat.

But overall, competitors were pleased with the course.

Just the top eight (of 30) riders got through in the men's competition yesterday, with four places up for grabs in tomorrow's semi-finals and O'Connor will be in the mix again, alongside top Canadian Mark McMorris and Britain's Billy Moran, who surprisingly didn't get through first time out.

Norway's Staale Sandbech topped the first group with a brilliant second run that scored him a 94.50, but Canada's Max Parrot, who was in O'Connor's group, pulled out a 97.50 with his second run to top qualifying.

Britain's Jamie Nicholls (86.75) was among the top eight automatic qualifiers which included five Scandinavians and two Canadians.

O'Connor (16) is a particularly young Olympic debutant and, if he doesn't get through tomorrow, he still has the halfpipe discipline to come next Tuesday.