Spencer O'Brien heading straight to Sochi slopestyle final
Finishes 3rd in qualifying heat
Canada's top medal contender in women's slopestyle snowboarding has punched her ticket straight to the Sochi Olympic final.
Spencer O'Brien of Courtenay, B.C., laid down a solid first run, scoring 82.75 to finish third in the first of two heats.
All 23 athletes who competed on Thursday advanced, but the top for riders from each heat earned a direct berth into Sunday's final.
"It's really nerve-racking to do qualifiers," said O'Brien.
"When I strapped in, it hit me how much work I have done to get here. I think it is a wonderful thing to celebrate this sport. I'm really excited for the world to see what we do."
"It's been a bit of a difficult course, but it's what we do for a living. That's the beauty of slopestyle. The courses are never the same. I think it is going to be a great course."
CBC snowboard analyst Craig McMorris provided insight on O'Brien.
“Calm, cool, collected. (She) didn't bring out her biggest tricks and still made it into the finals”, he said. “(Though she was) second place in her heat. She has much bigger tricks to pull out for the finals.”
Derungs Isabel of Switzerland won the first of two heats with a score of 87.50.
Australia's Torah Bright scored 85.25, finishing third. The reigning Olympic halfpipe champion is set to make Olympic history by competing in three different snowboard disciplines -- slopestyle, halfpipe and snowboard cross.
Rounding out the top four was Enni Rukajarvi of Finland, who finished the day with a 79.0.
In the second heat, Anna Gasser of Austria and American Jamie Anderson battled it out for top spot. It was Anderson who held the lead after the first run with a score of 93.5. Gasser dropped in for her final run and scored an impressive 95.5 to top the women's field.
Elena Koenz of Switzerland and American Karly Shorr also earned direct berths to Sunday's final, finishing third and fourth respectively.
Canadian Jenna Blasman finished sixth in her heat and will compete in the semifinal.
McMorris praised Blasman's toughness.
"(She's) very strong after breaking her wrist a few months back," he said.
"She couldn't even put on a glove. Bare hand out, (she's) riding very well.
With files from Olympic News Service.