Nicholls savours Olympic debut

Hampshire Chronicle: Jamie Nicholls finished sixth in the Snowboard Slopestyle final Jamie Nicholls finished sixth in the Snowboard Slopestyle final

Jamie Nicholls had a debut Winter Olympics to remember with a sixth-placed finish in Saturday's snowboard slopestyle final in Sochi.

The 20-year-old from Bradford found himself in second place at the end of the first run having earned a score of 85.50.

Nicholls could not better his score in his second run but, although he slipped out of the medals, there was no disguising his delight at a memorable showing in the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Sage Kotsenburg of the United States claimed the first slopestyle gold, and the first gold of Sochi 2014, with a first-run score of 93.50, with Norwegian Staale Sandbech (91.75) taking silver and Canada's Mark McMorris bronze (88.75), while Nicholls' British team-mate Billy Morgan finished in 10th spot.

Nicholls did not get his hopes up while he was still in the medal positions.

''I just knew it wasn't enough but just to be here part of it, part of this whole Olympics and the standard of riding, was unreal - to be in that mix is incredible,'' he said.

''I knew those guys at the end were the best guys in the world, I knew they were going to put down their runs.

''I'm only 20 years old. I'll probably be at the next one too. It's a great experience for sure."

Nicholls had surprised many, including himself, by reaching the final and had promised he would not hold back on Saturday.

He lived up to his word and held his nerve with a clean run that culminated in a backside triple on the final jump.

''My first run was the best run I've ever done in my life,'' he said. ''I landed that and I wanted to step up my second run by doing a switch back 12 (a trick that involves spinning backwards and completing three and a half rotations) on the second jump.

"That's the only way I could have gone. I tried my best and gave it my all."

Nicholls has admitted part of the reason for his success this week may have been down to his attitude.

''I felt no pressure in the Olympics whatsoever, maybe that's why I went as well as I did. It's crazy, I'm so happy that me and Billy managed to get to the finals,'' Nicholls added. ''To both get (in the) top 10 in the Olympics is great for British snowboarding.''

Southampton-born Morgan echoed Nicholls' sentiments.

''Jamie's the same as me. He's so stoked to be here. Two Brits being in the final is a massive achievement for us, " he said.

Morgan, who topped qualifying in Saturday morning's semi-final, failed to land a clean run in the afternoon's showpiece event, stumbling on his second jump.

''If I landed my run, I'm sure I would have been up there with the best score,'' he said. ''I'll be back, I'll be back with a vengeance.''

Of the two Britons, Morgan was considered a better prospect to claim a medal after his fourth-placed finish at last year's World Championship.

Morgan had earlier raced to the top of the leaderboard in the semi-final, finishing with a backside triple 14 on his final jump to earn a 90.50 score.

Team GB ice dancing duo Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland were shocked with their score in the team skating competition at the Winter Olympics, but vowed to correct any mistakes in time for their individual event in just over a week in Sochi.

The pair, who won a bronze medal at the recent European Championships, thought they had put in a decent performance in their short programme at the Iceberg Skating Palace but were marked 52.93 after a point deduction.

Buckland said: ''Looking at the technical score we were a bit shocked at it, it was very valuable.

'It (the deduction) was for the extended lift. You get six seconds to do a lift in and I think we were slightly over time.

''We don't quite know what the technical issues were, we were down on them, so we have to go away and look at it."

Jenna McCorkell concluded Team GB's participation in the inaugural team skating competition with a season's best performance although Britain finished 10th out of 10 nations in the event and therefore failed to qualify as one of the top five who would go on to the free skating section.

McCorkell, who finished 29th on her Olympic debut in Vancouver four years ago, was pleased with her short programme score of 50.09.

''It was by far my season's best, by 11 points, and I was glad to put a performance like that down at the Olympic Games, the biggest event in figure skating."

Britain's Lee Jackson finished in a disappointing 67th place in biathlon's men's 10km sprint, two minutes and 34 seconds behind gold medal winner Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, which meant he missed his target of qualifying for Monday's individual pursuit.

Jackson paid tribute to 40-year-old Norwegian Bjoerndalen, who claimed a record-equalling 12th Winter Olympics medal, but admitted: "I was too tired to notice what he was doing - I was just concentrating on hitting my targets.

"It was the hardest sprint I've ever done because the hills are so steep and it's so fatiguing."

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