Halfpipe qualifying off, then back on


KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Almost immediately after Olympic organizers announced they were altering the men's halfpipe schedule, hoping for better conditions over a course that has drawn heavy criticism from riders, they changed their minds.

Competition began with qualifying at 5 a.m. ET as originally planned with temperatures in the high 30s. There will be two qualifying heats followed by the semifinals at 10 a.m., with the top 12 riders advancing to the final at 12:30 p.m.

The previously announced change would have had riders compete only in a "semifinal," with the top 12 advancing to the final.

Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano was the second snowboarder to take a qualifying run and opened with a massive 92.25, easily the best in the first heats. He qualified directly for the final, along with Switzerland's Christian Haller and David Habluetzel.

Hirano, 15, won the silver medal at X Games Aspen in 2013 and is considered one of the top contenders to prevent Shaun White's bid for a third straight gold medal.

Gregory Bretz, the only American in the first heat, scored 71.75 on his first run, good for seventh place and a spot in the semifinals.

The halfpipe didn't seem to deteriorate over the course of the first heat, as four competitors qualified for the semifinals on their second runs.

Rising temperatures wreaked havoc with the halfpipe during training.

Danny Davis of the U.S. said Monday that the run needed a lot of work, while 2006 gold medalist Hannah Teter, who will compete in the women's contest Wednesday, called the halfpipe "crap."

Temperatures were expected to rise well above freezing Tuesday afternoon, worsening already slushy conditions.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.