Saturday 14 December 2019

O'Connor out but not down as he targets 'another shot'

Seamus O’Connor in action during the half-pipe qualifying on day four of the Winter Olympics at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Seamus O’Connor in action during the half-pipe qualifying on day four of the Winter Olympics at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Cliona Foley

Irish snowboarder Seamus O'Connor has not ruled out competing in his third Winter Olympics in 2022 despite the disappointment of finishing 18th in half-pipe qualifying yesterday.

He can always boast of playing his part in one of the greatest half-pipe sessions in Olympic history but that proved little consolation.

A smooth first run that scored 65.50 left the second-time Irish Olympian lying 13th at the halfway point, just 1.25 points away from the top 12 to make the final.

As the standard subsequently edged upwards, he needed a 77 second time around to make it but a slip on his final landing ended his dream.

The standard was hot enough to melt the giant course with Shaun White, now the sport's 32-year-old grandfather, pulling out a sensational 98.50 second time down and four others scored 90-plus.

O'Connor had to pull out his three-and-a-half rotation 'front-side 1260' to try to match them but just fell short.

"It's my biggest trick and here in Pyeongchang was the first time I'd done it in over two years," O'Connor explained.

"To come out here and do a run that I haven't done in years is incredible for me. It was really close and I'd like things to have gone a little better but that's how snowboarding half-pipe is. You're either on it or really close but not quite there."


His 18th place, while three lower than what he achieved in Sochi as a 16-year-old, was still quite an achievement given that O'Connor tore all the ligaments in his knee just 16 months ago and didn't return to competition until last September.

"2022's a long ways away but competing again here, and looking at the Olympic rings, I would say I'll be happy to give it another shot," he said.

He can certainly take inspiration from Shaun White.

America's 'Flying Tomato' was completely written off after a medal-less Sochi and some horrendous injuries since yet he led the scoring in both rounds. Australia's James Scotty and Ayumu Hirano, one of sport's new wave of teen Japanese superstars, also scored over 95, leaving a mouthwatering final in prospect.

The day's other two big stories were Austria's Marcel Hirscher finally killing his Olympic albatross and America's new women's half-pipe darling, 17-year-old Chloe Kim, landing two successive 1080s in a cruise to victory.

Olympic gold had always eluded six-time world champion skier Hirscher but it finally came in the Alpine Combined, where the Norwegian threat never emerged and his uncharacteristically good downhill run set him up for victory, with two Frenchmen taking the minor medals.

Ireland's Pat McMillan made his Olympic debut in the same event, finishing 61st after the downhill section but he was among 17 men to miss a gate and fail to finish the slalom element. His priority is the Downhill tomorrow followed by the Super-G on Friday.

Thomas Westgaard, Ireland's sole cross-country skier, improved on his ranking by finishing 62rd in the 1.4km Sprint event in a time of three minutes 29.6, just two days after being exhausted by the 30km.

"It's one of the best sprints I've done this season so I have to be satisfied with that," he said with two more races to come, the 15km Freestyle on Friday and the 50km marathon on February 24.

Yesterday also marked Pyeongchang's first doping story when Japanese speed skater Kei Siato, who had not yet competed, was provisionally suspended for failing a pre-Games test. His positive was for a diuretic that is banned because it is considered a masking agent.

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