Olympic champ Cassie Sharpe out of FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup opener after fall

Canadian Sharpe had been due to lead a stacked field at the NZ Winter Games in Cardrona, New Zealand.

Olympic freeski halfpipe women's champion Cassie Sharpe has withdrawn from the season-opening FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup this weekend in Cardrona, New Zealand, after falling and landing on her head during a training run the day before the event.

Sharpe was able to get back up, but posted on Instagram afterwards that she had to "heal her brain", rather than lining up for the opening day of the campaign on Friday (6th September).

The 26-year-old, who turns 27 next week, had been the top name in a stacked field at the NZ Winter Games, which includes Simon d'Artois, the reigning men's crystal globe holder.

China to take advantage?

The absence of Sharpe, the defending Halfpipe World Cup champion, appears to open the door for Chinese athletes in the women's event.

Zhang Kexin and Li Fanghui were third and fifth overall last season, while U.S.-born 16-year-old Eileen Gu won at Cardrona last week in the regional Australia New Zealand Cup competition.

Other PyeongChang 2018 Olympians such as Germany's Sabrina Cakmakli, China's Wu Meng, Valeriya Demidova of Russia, Saori Suzuki of Japan, and South Korea's Jang Yujin, are also on the start-list and will hope to turn their experience into an early World Cup lead.

World medallists headline men's event

Alongside d'Artois, Canada have named a strong line-up which includes 2019 world bronze medallist and PyeongChang Olympian Noah Bowman.

The two-time defending world champion, Aaron Blunck, heads an eight-strong American team hoping to clinch the first event of the season, and will pose one of the stiffest tests for d'Artois and Bowman.

PyeongChang finalist Thomas Krief of France is also in the lineup, while the hosts are led by Miguel Porteous, older brother of Olympic bronze medallist Nico (who's not taking part this weekend).

The finals will take place on Saturday, 7 September, from 11:00 am local time (23:00 UTC on 6 September).

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