Americans Alex Hall, Colby Stevenson and Mac Forehand each threw down impressive runs to claim three of the top eight qualifying spots Monday in men's freeski big air, giving the U.S. a promising contingent for the final. Norway's Birk Ruud led the field with the two best overall scores.
Hall used his signature Buick grab, a trick he invented himself, on all three runs to take second with a combined score of 180.25. The reigning X Games champion opened with a huge switch 1800, later improving the same attempt on his third run, and stomped a 1980 in between on Run 2, whistling while awaiting the 90.75 score.
"It was good to have a good time with the boys, you can't ask for much more," Hall said. "We all just push each other to do our best … Our sport has been progressing so much the last few years. When you get a venue this good and a jump this good and everyone is having a good time … it's just what happens naturally."
Stevenson combined a switch 1800 Cuban grab on Run 2 with a nosebutter 1620 double grab on Run 1 to place fifth, tallying a score of 174.25. Forehand, runner-up behind Hall at last month's X Games, posted the competition's best Run 2 score of 92.00 with a stylish switch 1800 double grab (Cuban to Japan) for eighth.
"It's going to take a lot [to win the final]," Forehand said. Birk [Ruud] is one of the best skiers in the world, especially in big air. I think he has got this … he has got two pretty big tricks that will score really high. We saw today how much higher he was above everybody else in qualifying."
Ruud, third at October's Big Air Chur, landed a massive switch triple cork 1980 on his first run, the top individual score of the competition, and then a huge 1800 mute grab on Run 3 to total 187.75. Sweden's Oliwer Magnusson and Henrik Harlaut, who stuck a nosebutter triple 1620, placed a respective third and fourth.
"To take those two jumps into the final feels good. I was injured nine weeks ago and I had to fight my way back up," Ruud said. "I'm happy to set the bar. Skiing [progression] is getting crazy."
All 12 qualifiers – a field that includes three skiers each from the U.S., Sweden and Norway – scored 170 points or better, possibly indicating a fireworks show could take place at the Big Air Shougang venue during Wednesday's final, which starts at 10 p.m. Tuesday ET.