By Joanne C. Gerstner | Feb. 15, 2018, 8:23 a.m. (ET)

Kiley McKinnon competes in women's freestyle skiing aerials qualification at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 15, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

American aerialists Kiley McKinnon and Madison Olsen hoped to reach their first Olympic final without much drama Thursday. Just nail the opening round, get a great score, and secure one of the six direct qualification spots in Friday’s Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 final.

That did not end up as the script, but the end result was still satisfactory: Olympic newcomers McKinnon and Olsen threw down good enough runs, and made it into the final with the same score of 87.88. In a surprise, 2017 world champion Ashley Caldwell had significant errors on both of her landings and failed to qualify. She finished 10th at both the 2010 and 2014 Games.

The top scorers in qualification were Olympic Athlete from Russia’s Alexandra Orlova, with 102.22, and Hanna Huskova of Belarus at 100.45.

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The conditions were good for night competition at Phoenix Snow Park, with low winds, clear skies and around a temperate near 19. The implicit goal of the opening run was to score high enough to finish in the top six, ensuring a direct qualification into the 12-aerialist final without a second run.

McKinnon, the 2015 world championship silver medalist, opened with a triple twisting double back. She had good air, but the landing was far from clean, and she only scored a 72.26. Her second was a back/full-full, and she nailed the landing to tie Olsen at 87.88.

The cleanest American runs came from Olsen. She glided in round one, with big air full-full and a controlled landing, for 87.88. Her final run was a well done back/lay-full, but did not have a high enough degree of difficulty to improve on her first score.

But those details don’t matter now.

Olsen and McKinnon did enough to make the final, and that was always the main script.

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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