Olympic champion Chloe Kim returned to the International Ski Federation Snowboard World Cup circuit in style by topping the women’s halfpipe semi-final standings in Laax.
Kim, who became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal at the age of 17 at Pyeongchang 2018, has not competed on the World Cup circuit since March 2019.
The American star took a year out from the sport to study at Princeton University and recover from a broken ankle.
Kim’s return today was highly anticipated and the American delivered an impressive performance.
Her first run of competition resulted in a score of 94.00 points from the judges, which placed the 20-year-old at the top of the semi-final standings.
Kim was unable to improve in the second run, but the American cruised into the six athlete final.
She will be joined by Japan’s Mitsuki Ono and Spain’s Queralt Castellet, who achieved scores of 90.00 and 87.50 respectively.
Australia’s Valentino Guseli 🇦🇺 put down an absolute heater to earn a score of 95.00 and top spot in heat 1 of #LAAXOPEN halfpipe semifinals 🔥🔥🔥#fissnowboard #halfpipe #snowboarding @LaaxSwitzerland pic.twitter.com/F8ImYQxJ2I— fissnowboard (@fissnowboard) January 21, 2021
Japan’s Sena Tomita placed fourth on 80.25, with Germany’s Leilani Ettel and Haruana Matsumoto completing the top six on 77.00 and 75.50 respectively.
Olympic champion Shaun White had initially been due to make his return to the men’s circuit, but the American was not among today’s starters.
Two heats were held to determine the 12 qualifiers for the men’s final, with six progressing from each.
Australia's Valentino Guseli led the first heat by achieving a score of 95.00, which proved the highest of the day.
He was followed by Switzerland’s David Habluetzel and Australia’s Scotty James, who achieved scores of 84.50 and 81.00, respectively.
Japan’s Yuto Totsuka top scored in the second heat, with his second run receiving a score of 84.75.
United States’ Taylor Gold and Germany’s Andre Hoeflich completed the top three in the heat on 83.50 and 80.75.
Night finals in the halfpipe event are set to bring the competition to a close on Saturday (January 23).
Attention will turn to the men’s and women’s slopestyle finals tomorrow.