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© Reuters. Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics© Reuters. Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Carlos Garcia Knight topped qualifying for the men’s snowboarding big air competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Wednesday, while Olympic slopestyle champion Redmond Gerard also scraped into the final.

Garcia Knight scored 97.50 points on his second run in the second of Wednesday’s two heats, with Swiss Jonas Boesiger second (96.00) and Canada’s Mark McMorris third (95.75).

Canadian Max Parrot topped heat one with a score of 92.50, while 17-year-old American Gerard posted 85.00 to grab the last spot from the heat.

The top six from each heat advanced to Saturday’s final.

Slopestyle champion Gerard said the competition was so fierce in Pyeongchang that just getting to the final was an achievement.

“I don’t really look at myself as a big air rider, but I was happy to land both runs. That’s kind of what I see going into these contests,” he said.

“I think everyone knew coming into this contest that it’s an Olympics so it’s going to be the heaviest qualifiers ever.

“You gotta come out here and do the best tricks you can and see how it goes.”

After a quick trip back to the U.S., Gerard said he was still adjusting to life as an Olympic gold medalist.

“I went back for three days, one of them in LA, two of them in New York, so I mean the jet lag was crazy, but coming back was mellow because I’m still on this time zone,” he added.

The big air event is making its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang and sees snowboarders hurtle down a ramp standing at 49 meters with a maximum slope angle of 40 degrees and perform spins and tricks to impress the judges.

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