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White easily qualifies for halfpipe final

<p>Two-time defending gold medalist Shaun White breezed into the final round of the men's halfpipe by posting the top qualifying score Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics.</p>

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Two-time defending gold medalist Shaun White breezed into the final round of the men's halfpipe by posting the top qualifying score Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics.

White received criticism for withdrawing from the slopestyle competition to focus on the halfpipe, but it was hard to argue with that decision after watching the American's first run down the halfpipe on Tuesday.

Attempting to win his third straight gold in the halfpipe, White impressed the judges in his opening run, earning a score of 95.75.

Although the halfpipe conditions at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park have been criticized by some boarders, the 27-year-old White appeared to have little difficulty getting height on his jumps during his first run.

With little left to prove his second time down the halfpipe, White turned in a score of 70.75.

White is trying to become only the fourth athlete to win the same event in three straight Winter Olympics. The other three were all women -- speed skaters Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Claudia Pechstein of Germany and figure skater Sonja Henie of Norway.

The qualification round features two heats of 20 competitors. The top three riders in each heat advance to the finals, while Nos. 4-9 move on to the semifinal round. The semis and final round will both take place on Tuesday.

American Danny Davis also advanced to the finals with the third-best score of the second heat. Japan's Taku Hiraoka finished second to White with a score of 92.25.

Japan's Ayumu Hirano had the top score of the first heat with a 92.25. Swiss riders Christian Haller and David Habluetzel also punched tickets to the final in Heat 1. American Gregory Bretz was one of six boarders to make it to the semifinals from the first heat.

Taylor Gold of the U.S. qualified for the semis after recording a score of 87.50 in Heat 2.

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