Shaun White easily qualifies for halfpipe final

Two-time defending gold medalist Shaun White breezed into the final round of the men’s halfpipe by posting the top qualifying score today at the Sochi Olympics.

White received criticism for withdrawing from the slopestyle competition to focus on the halfpipe, but it was hard to argue with that decision after watching the American’s first run down the halfpipe on Tuesday.

Attempting to win his third straight gold in the halfpipe, White impressed the judges in his opening run, earning a score of 95.75.

Although the halfpipe conditions at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park have been criticized by some boarders, the 27-year-old White appeared to have little difficulty getting height on his jumps during his first run.

White is trying to become only the fourth athlete to win the same event in three straight Winter Olympics. The other three were all women — speed skaters Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Claudia Pechstein of Germany and figure skater Sonja Henie of Norway.

The qualification round features two heats of 20 competitors. The top three riders in each heat advance to the finals, while Nos. 4-9 move on to the semifinal round. The semis and final round were both scheduled for today.

American Danny Davis also advanced to the finals with the third-best score of the second heat. Japan’s Taku Hiraoka finished second to White with a score of 92.25.

Japan’s Ayumu Hirano had the top score of the first heat with a 92.25. Swiss riders Christian Haller and David Habluetzel also punched tickets to the final in Heat 1. American Gregory Bretz was one of six boarders to make it to the semifinals from the first heat.

NBC pulls Costas from primetime coverage

Bob Costas’ eye infection has become one of the more prevailing stories at the Sochi Games.

Now, with the conjunctivitis having spread to both eyes, NBC Sports has pulled the veteran broadcaster from primetime coverage. Today Show host Matt Lauer will fill in on Tuesday evening, marking the first time since 1988 that someone other than Costas has anchored the coverage.

“I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but you’re going to be my Mariano Rivera tonight,” Costas told Lauer on air Tuesday morning.

NBC had taken to using ever-wider shots to reduce the visual impact of Costas’ infected eyes. Costas actually joked about his pinkeye on Monday, as he downed a shot of vodka with fellow on-air personality Mary Carillo, noting that his eyes couldn’t get any worse.

USA’s Caldwell reaches women’s sprint free final

American cross country skier Sophie Caldwell secured a spot in the final of the women’s sprint free competition on Tuesday.

Caldwell and Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg crossed the finish line at nearly the same time in the second semifinal heat. Oestberg’s teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla and Slovakia’s Vesna Fabjan finished 1-2 in the first heat to claim their spots in the final.

Caldwell is looking to become just the second American to win a cross country medal in Olympic history. William Koch claimed the only medal, a silver in the men’s 30-km mass start at Innsbruck in 1976.


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