First came the Olympic debut.
Now comes the Olympic dogfight.
Anchorage's Ryan Stassel made his first Winter Olympics appearance Thursday morning in Sochi, Russia, where he was one of 29 men competing in the inaugural Olympic snowboard slopestyle competition.
Stassel, 21, wasn't one of the eight riders who advanced to the finals. And so he will ride in Friday's semifinals, where 21 men will vie for the four remaining spots in the final.
The semifinal field is loaded with talent. Three heavyweights of the sport will be fighting to keep their Olympic dream alive -- two-time Winter X Games champion Mark McMorris of Canada and Americans Sage Kotsenburg and Chas Guldemond.
Stassel placed 16th in the preliminaries, where each rider made two runs. The best score counts.
Stassel scored 81 points on his first run, a solid show marred when he put his hand to the ground on his final jump. On his second run, he scored 28.75 points after failing to land a jump.
The man to watch in the semifinals is McMorris, who is competing with a broken rib suffered last month at the X Games. He turned in a spectacular second run, but his score of 89.25 -- decried by fans as too low -- didn't make the cut for the finals.
Kotsenburg scored 86.5 and Guldemond 86.0.
Only three Americans competed, because halfpipe superstar Shaun White withdrew from the competition, citing concerns over course safety.
No bad spills happened during the men's preliminaries, held under brilliant blue skies and in calm conditions.
Canada's Max Parrot, who claimed gold at last month's X Games, led all qualifiers with 97.5 points out of a possible 100.
Also advancing to the finals were Roope Tonteri of Finland (95.75), Norway's Staale Sandbech (94.5),Sven Thorgren of Sweden (94.25) and Gjermund Bratten of Norway (91.25), Finland's Peetu Piiroinen (90.75), Canada's Sebastien Toutant (87.25) and Great Britain's Jamie Nicholls (86.75).
Semifinals begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Alaska time. The finals follow at 11:45 p.m.
BY BETH BRAGG