Freestyle Skiing

Thursday Feb. 6, 2014 09:01 ET

Canadians set for intense battle in women's moguls final

Dufour-Lapointe sisters, Audrey Robichaud all advance

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada qualifies for Saturday's moguls final. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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The Sochi Games may not have officially started yet, but there are already good reasons for Canadians to get excited about the country's medal hopes. 

On a clear day near sunset at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday, all four Canadians in women's moguls managed to advance to Saturday's medal round. 

Canada’s Dufour-Lapointe sisters — Chloe, Justine and Maxime — all enjoyed terrific runs down a difficult mogul course. The Montreal, Que.,-based skiers head into Saturday with Chloe Dufour-Lapointe leading the charge after finishing in second place and scoring 22.64 on Thursday. 

Justine, the youngest of the Dufour-Lapointe family and ranked second in the world, also skied strongly in her run and finished in third place, scoring 22.28. Maxime Dufour-Lapointe managed to land in eighth place, scoring 20.88 on her qualifying run.

Audrey Robichaud, Canada's veteran team member, has also advanced to the medal round on Saturday, scoring 20.61 and finishing in ninth place.

Americans struggle in qualifying 

After what was touted to be a battle between Canada and the United States for the podium, doubts have surfaced after Thursday's qualifying round. U.S. skier Heidi Kloser did not start her race due to a pre-race injury, and Heather McPhie struggled in her race, scoring 19.92 and failing to qualify for Saturday. 

Defending Olympic champion Hannah Kearney has advanced, finishing first in the qualifying around and scoring 23.05 in spite of some errors on jumps. Fellow American Eliza Ourttim is also in the mix for Saturday, scoring 21.51 and finishing in fourth place. 

Kazakhstan’s Yulia Galysheva is also moving on to Saturday’s medal round, enjoying a terrific qualifying run and finishing in ninth place. 

Aiko Uemura of Japan, a five-time Olympian, had a strong ski and managed to finish in seventh place with a score of 21.01, securing a spot in Saturday's final. 

Moguls: A New Format 

Freestyle skiing events are taking place at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park near Krasnaya Polyana, 40 kilometres outside of Sochi. The moguls course at the Extreme Park has so far been living up to its namesake: it has been described by some competitors as "challenging" and even intimidating to ski on. 

In addition to a tough course at 247 metres long and with a pace time of 30.12 seconds, there's also some changes to the moguls format in Sochi. Unlike in past Winter Olympics, qualifying for the medal round is a much greater challenge this time around.

In previous Winter Olympics, moguls featured both the qualification and medal rounds on the same day.

Yet in Sochi, things have changed.

The 10 competitors in Thursday's qualification round have automatically advanced to Saturday's medal round. The remaining competitors that did not qualify on Thursday must now return for a second qualifying run on Saturday.

After the second qualifying run, the top 20 qualifiers make the finals, which will be thinned out over three rounds until only six competitors remain.

In the "Super Final," the top six will then battle for spots on the podium. 

Intensity will only increase 

While the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and Audrey Robichaud all look to be in a strong position to make the podium on Saturday, they're facing some especially tough competition. 

Despite the problems the team faced on Thursday, the Americans remain a formidable force with Hannah Kearney looking like a solid bet to re-take gold again in Sochi after her win in Vancouver 2010. 

Even though Australia's Britteny Cox failed to qualify on Thursday, she looks considerably stronger in Sochi than in Vancouver in terms of her jumps and skiing and could still surprise people with a rebound performance in Saturday's second qualifying round. 

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