James, Cai win snowboard halfpipe world titles in Austria

Scotty James of Australia during the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship men's halfpipe final. 

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KREISCHBERG, Austria — Australian snowboarder Scotty James won the halfpipe world title, while Cai Xuetong of China won the women’s competition on Saturday.

James earned 91.50 points in his first run of a rain-soaked final. As that score remained unmatched by his competitors, James was already secured of the gold medal before his final run, which he used to exchange high fives with spectators along the pipe.

”It’s an amazing day and I am so, so stoked to come away with the win,” the 20-year-old James said after clinching his first major title. ”I knew I was in first place before my last run and my coach said, `Do what you want.’ I love it when the fans come out and watch us, so giving them a little high five on the way down was awesome.”

Zhang Yiwei of China won silver with 89.50, and Tim-Kevin Ravnjak of Slovenia took bronze with 89.25.

Defending world and Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland placed fourth in his first competition since the Sochi Games. The Russian-born athlete, nicknamed I-Pod, underwent ankle surgery following a training crash in November, and came five points short of the podium.

Cai won the women’s event with 94.25 points. The world junior champ in 2009 has won six World Cups, but none since February 2012.

Queralt Castellet of Spain scored 81.25 for silver, and Clemence Grimal of France gained 80.25 for the bronze medal.

Pre-race favorite Torah Bright of Australia, who won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010 and silver in Sochi last year, finished sixth and last in the final.

The next medal event of the snowboard and freestyle skiing world championships is the moguls on Sunday.