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Olympic Daily News - Thursday, February 6th

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Two Canadian snowboarders who were critical of Shaun White's decision to pull out of the Olympic slopestyle competition were among eight riders who qualified Thursday for the event's final.

Max Parrot posted the day's best score, a 97.50 in his second run. Sebastien Toutant also made it through to Saturday's final as the Sochi Olympics opened with one of the new events debuting at the games.

White, the American star known for his daring halfpipe tricks, withdrew from the event on Wednesday, saying he wanted to concentrate on winning his third straight gold medal in the halfpipe.

He hurt his wrist during a training run on Tuesday but initially indicated he would not miss the event. His decision to withdraw was mocked by Parrot and Toutant on social media.

In a since-deleted tweet, Parrot said he thought White was "scared" to compete and "knows he won't be able to win the slopes."

Toutant tweeted, "It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win." Toutant also deleted his message, and Parrot offered an apology for his.

The slopestyle course drew criticism as being potentially dangerous and was modified after Norway's Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on Monday.

The event, making its Olympic debut, features riders doing tricks over rails and jumps, like skateboarders in a city park only down a snow-covered trail.

Parrot's first run was smooth, but for a dragged hand at the end of one of his jumps, and drew a score of 91.75. The reigning Winter X Games gold medalist was better on his second run, which had few obvious flaws.

Toutant scored a 74.25 on his first run and qualified through his second with a score of 87.25.

Canadian Mark McMorris, a two-time X Games gold medalist, fell on his first run and will have to qualify through the semifinals.

McMorris, who suffered a broken rib at the X Games last month, pulled off a triple-cork on his second run but earned an 89.25, not among the four best riders in his heat.

Americans Sage Kotsenburg, Ryan Stassel and Charles Guldemond will also have to try to qualify through the semifinals, which are Saturday.

Moving directly to the final with Parrot and Toutant were Norway's Staale Sandbech and Gjermund Braaten, Finland's Peetu Piiroinen and Roope Tonteri, Great Britain's Jamie Nicholls and Sweden's Sven Thorgren.

ANDERSON QUALIFIES 2ND IN SLOPESTYLE

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American snowboarder Jamie Anderson had the second-best qualifying score on Thursday in the women's Olympic slopestyle competition and moved directly into the final.

Austria's Anna Gasser, riding in the same heat as Anderson, posted a top score of 95.50 points. Anderson was second with a 93.50 on her only run of the day.

The event, making its Olympic debut, features riders doing tricks over rails and jumps down a snow-covered trail.

Men's and women's qualification heats were both run Thursday, a day ahead of the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics. American star Shaun White pulled out of the men's competition on Wednesday.

American Karly Shorr also qualified for the final, as did reigning Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright of Australia, Spencer O'Brien of Canada, Isabel Derungs and Elena Koenz of Switzerland and Finland's Enni Rukajarvi.

Every other athlete who competed Thursday will have a chance to make the final through the semifinals, including Americans Jessika Jenson and Ty Walker and Canadian Jenna Blasman. Walker made only one run Thursday without going over the rails or jumps.

Anderson won back-to-back gold medals at the Winter X Games in 2012-13 but finished second last month to Norway's Silje Norendal.

KEARNEY LEADS QUALIFIERS FOR MOGULS

Rosa Khutor, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American Hannah Kearney posted the top score in the women's moguls qualifier on Thursday at the 2014 Olympics.

Kearney is trying to repeat as Olympic champion, having captured gold in the event four years ago in Vancouver. She took top honors Thursday with a score of 23.05 and qualified directly into Saturday's final with the next nine finishers from Thursday.

Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe qualified second and third on Thursday. Chloe finished with a score of 22.64, followed by Justine's 22.28. Another sister, Maxime, had the eighth-best score Thursday and advanced to the final.

American Eliza Outtrim was fourth at 21.51, while France's Perrine Laffont, Kazakhstan's Yulia Galysheva, Japan's Aiko Uemura, Canadian Audrey Robichaud and Russian Regina Rakhimova also qualified for Saturday's final.

The remaining 20 competitors will have a second qualifying run on Saturday prior to the three-round, knockout-style final.

RUSSIA GRABS LEAD IN TEAM FIGURE SKATING

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Russia has grabbed the lead in the new team figure skating event at the 2014 Olympics after Yevgeny Plushenko and the pairs duo of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put on stellar performances Thursday night.

Plushenko finished second to Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu in the men's short program segment, giving the Russians nine points in the format. Volosozhar and Trankov then won the pairs short program for 10 points to push the Russians to the top of the standings with 19 total points.

The 10-nation competition features one man, one woman, one pairs duo and one dance team. Each individual skater and team will perform a short program and the best score will earn 10 points for that nation with nine points going to the second-best score, and so on.

After the four short programs for each nation, the field will be trimmed to the best five and the free skate for each of those five will help determine the medals.

The gold will go to the nation that has best cumulative score from the eight segments.

Canada currently sits second with 17 points after two segments, as world men's champion Patrick Chan finished third for eight points and the pairs team of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford placed second for nine points.

China is third with 15 points and Japan is fourth with 13. The Japanese pairs duo of Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara was a distant eighth on Thursday for three points to follow Hanyu's 10-point, first-place effort.

The United States is tied for fifth with Germany and France at 10 points. American champion Jeremy Abbott was seventh on Thursday for four points and the pairs tandem of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed fifth to earn six points.

The women and ice dancing short programs are scheduled for Saturday. The field will then be cut to five teams and the pairs free skate will also take place Saturday.

Free skates for the men, women and ice dancing are slated for Sunday, when medals will also be awarded.

ST. LOUIS TO REPLACE STAMKOS FOR TEAM CANADA

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Martin St. Louis will replace injured Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos on the roster for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics.

Stamkos was not cleared to play for Canada as he continues to recover from a broken leg suffered in early November.

Instead, it will be St. Louis who will be making his second Olympic appearance. He also played for Canada at the Torino Games in 2006.

IN SOCHI, UN's BAN DEFENDS LGBT RIGHTS

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Saying the eyes of the world are on Sochi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced support for LGBT rights on the eve of the Winter Olympics.

In the first address of its kind, Ban spoke Thursday at an International Olympic Committee session.

"Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice," Ban said. "We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrest, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face."

Anti-gay laws signed last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin were widely criticized and raised fears that Olympic athletes or visitors to the Games who are gay -- or suspected of being gay -- could be arrested or detained.

The laws instituted a ban on so-called pro-gay "propaganda."

More recently, the mayor of Sochi drew snickers when he said there were no gay people in his city and new IOC president Thomas Bach scolded world leaders who might seek to make political hay out of the anti-gay laws ahead of the Games.

While Ban was attending the Games, other world leaders stayed away, including United States President Barack Obama. The delegation sent to represent the U.S. includes three openly gay athletes.

In October, the United States Olympic Committee updated its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

Ban cited Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which says discrimination is "incompatible" with the Olympic Movement, and praised the U.N.'s own policy of anti-discrimination.

"The United Nations stands strongly behind our own Free & Equal campaign and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance," he said. "Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century."

Ban said sports has the power "to bring together individuals regardless of age, race, class, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity."