Scotty James flies high during the men's snowboard halfpipe qualification run.
Scotty James flies high during the men's snowboard halfpipe qualification run. SERGEI ILNITSKY

Halfpipe heroes lay down big markers

WINTER SPORT: Australian flag bearer Scotty James will go up against US legend Shaun White and Japanese flyer Ayumu Hirano for a gold medal on Wednesday.

All three snowboarders were at the top of their games in an epic qualifying round at PyeongChang's Phoenix Snow Park.

White topped qualifying in the men's halfpipe event with a stunning 98.25 out of 100 second run, coming one rider after the Australian world No.1 hit the lead with 96.75.

epa06519843 Scotty James of Australia during the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018.  EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Scotty James all business during qualifying. FAZRY ISMAIL

James had stolen top spot off Hirano, who beat him at the recent X Games with a near-perfect 99.00 score, by delivering a 95.25 despite riding well within himself.

None of the top three revealed their full array of tricks during the qualifying round and Wednesday's three-run final shapes as an epic encounter.

Shaun White celebrates.
Shaun White finishes his qualifying run. Lee Jin-man

James, the world champion and World Cup winner, had sealed his spot in the decider with a solid first-run score of 89, but then he threw down the gauntlet with his next effort.

Australian teammate Kent Callister also earned a spot in the final thanks to a stellar second run score of 77 which landed him in 12th spot.

Fellow Australian Nathan Johnstone missed out on a place in the final after finishing qualifying in 22nd spot thanks to his first run 62.25.

The men's halfpipe final is scheduled for 11.30am (AEST) Wednesday.