PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - World number one and gold medal favorite Mikael Kingsbury eased through the first qualifying session on Friday for the men’s moguls final.
The Canadian, a silver medalist in Sochi four years ago, is the overwhelming favorite to claim victory in Monday’s final and looked comfortable as he scored 86.07 points to top the first qualifying round.
Olympic Athlete from Russia Aleksandr Smyshliaev was second on 83.93 points, whilst Kazakh Dmitriy Reikherd was third, scoring 81.23.
Kingsbury had said earlier in the week the cold conditions would suit him, yet the athletes were met with significantly warmer conditions on Friday with temperatures reaching a low of -2 Celsius (28 Fahrenheit).
There was a strong showing from the Japanese team, with Ikuma Horishima qualifying fifth and Daichi Hara sixth.
Horishima could be the only man with a chase of upsetting Kingsbury after he ended the 25-year-old’s almost year-long streak of World Cup wins in January and also clinched gold at the 2017 World Championships in Spain.
The top 10 skiers from the first round of qualifying automatically advanced to the final, with a second round of qualifying on Monday.
The 10 athletes with the lowest score after qualifying are eliminated.
Australian Brodie Summers did not start his run after sitting with the team doctor before the event started. It was not immediately clear why he did not start.
Home favorite Choi Jae-Woo, who was ranked fourth on the World Cup circuit, had a loose second jump and could only score 72.95 points to finish in 20th place.
Finland’s Jimi Salonen, who tripped after landing the first jump, and Norway’s Vinjar Slatten, who lost his ski, both fell but have another chance to qualify on Monday.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury