Jamie Nicholls gave Great Britain a tremendous start to the Winter Olympics after surprisingly booking his place in the finals of the debuting snowboard slopestyle event, although compatriot Billy Morgan agonisingly missed out.
Of the two, Morgan was thought to be the greater medal prospect – but Bradford rider Nicholls rose to the occasion at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in his first Olympics, scoring 86.75 on his second run to finish fourth and move automatically into Saturday’s showpiece.
Morgan, who became the first person to compete at these Games in Sochi after he was the first rider in the opening qualifying heat, can feel a little hard done by following a score of 85.50, although he will get another chance to impress in the semi-finals.
Staale Sandbech of Norway topped the heat with an impressive 94.50, while Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen and Sebastien Toutant of Canada also made it through.
Nicholls, who only scored 62.25 in his first run, joined them with a more daring second routine and he was thrilled.
The Queensbury rider said: “It’s amazing, I can’t explain it. I literally came here and all I wanted to do was land my run.
“Landing a run and getting to the finals is a dream come true. I’m going for broke now and I’ll throw everything down in the finals.”
The course consisted of three rail sections at the top followed by three large jumps.
There had been controversy about the course as many felt it was too dangerous but Nicholls was not phased and appeared relaxed as he prepared for each of his runs.