The scene is set for perhaps the greatest snowboarding showdown since the sport entered the Olympics as riders line up to praise the halfpipe built at PyeongChang’s Bokwang Phoenix Park.

Not particularly reserved in holding back at previous Games, snowboarders trashed the last two ‘pipes in Sochi and Vancouver as soft and on occasion plain dangerous.

But there’s no such issues in PyeongChang with a perfectly cut and hard ‘pipe paving the way for a classic showdown between American Shaun White, Australia’s Scotty James and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano.

Veteran Australian rider, four-time Olympian and 2011 world champion Holly Crawford, said it was up there with the great halfpipes she has ridden in an almost two-decade career.

“Definitely one of the best,” she said after training on Saturday.

“It’s dead straight. I can’t fault it. Not under vert, not over vert (too steep or shallow). It’s holding up really well during training. It’s just everything anybody ever wanted at the Olympics.”

Fellow Australian rider Kent Callister, ninth at the Sochi Games, also labelled it one of the best he had seen while a number of international athletes remarked how good it was.

Kent Callister of Australia is seen during a training run in the halfpipe at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at Phoenix Snow Park in PyeongChang, South Korea, Saturday, February 10, 2018. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

It leaves the bugbear of judging – already raised in detail by James two days ago – as perhaps the only sticky issue in what shapes as an outstanding contest between three in form men and some of their contemporaries.

James looked to ride within himself on Saturday, getting plenty of amplitude (air) but eased off as the session went on.

White also went big but seemed to also have plenty left in his bag of tricks while Hirano was perhaps the most impressive from a technical standpoint.

“Everyone is having a whole lot of fun – I don’t know how they can make it better than this,” Crawford added.

The Australian must have viewing guide for PyeongChang

Snowboarding entered the Winter Olympics in 1998 but was initially dismissed by many top riders who didn’t like the way the sport was run at Games or World Cup level – often by people that had largely been involved with skiing.

There’s been a bevy of complaints over the years about course shaping and conditions but all signs in PyeongChang have been positive across the the sport’s disciplines.

Qualification for the women’s snowboard halfpipe begins on Monday; the men’s on Tuesday.


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