CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) – Ron Chiodi of Stratton Mountain, Vt., fought his way through fast-falling darkness on the shortest day of the year Saturday to win an Olympic qualifier halfpipe competition by seven-tenths of a point while Cara-Beth Burnside of Orange, Calif., took the women’s event by .2.
Burnside, the first-run leader, wobbled on her second ride but compiled 64.6 points to 64.4 for Swedish rider Jennie Waara. Michelle Taggart of Salem, Ore., took third at 63.2.
Chiodi received 74.4 points for his two rides on the final day of the inaugural $225,000 Bud Light U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix at Sugarloaf-USA resort to nip Jamil Khan of Gloversville, N.Y. Chiodi and Burnside each collected $10,000 for their victory in the first of three Grand Prix contests which will determine the first U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team as the sport makes its debut at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, next February.
Rounding out the men’s top five were Seth Wescott, a former Carabassett Valley Academy rider from nearby Farmington, in third place, 1996 FIS world halfpipe champion Ross Powers of South Londonderry, Vt., fourth and Jason Evans of Mount Snow, Vt., fifth.
“I didn’t know what to expect on the last run. I just closed my eyes and cleared the area between runs,” said Chiodi, who grew up in Fairport, N.Y., but moved to Vermont four years ago to focus on riding.
“I could’ve used a headlamp or something. There was no light. This is definitely good for my confidence because this wasn’t the best I can ride,” added Chiodi, who won the halfpipe in the 1997 American Snowboard Tour North American Championships.
Burnside, who described herself as “20-something,” is one of the top halfpipe riders internationally. She said the Olympic opportunity has motivated most riders this winter.
“These Olympic qualifiers are a big challenge. The chance to do really well and go to the Olympics and be part of a first in snowboarding is a real challenge,” she told reporters, battling to see their notes as they scribbled in the gathering darkness.
“I thought my first run was a lot better than my second and that’s what you need to do; stick ‘em both,” she said. “This is a big one off my back. It’s still up for grabs and anyone can do it, but this feels good.”
The Bud Light Grand Prix resumes Jan. 21-24 at Oregon’s Mount Bachelor Ski Area and concludes Jan. 28-31 at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. The first U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team will be named following the final event Jan. 31 and head directly to Nagano.
1. Ron Chiodi, Stratton Mountain, Vt., 74.4 points.
2. Jamil Khan, Gloversville, N.Y., 73.7.
3. Seth Wescott, Farmington, Maine, 71.5.
4. Ross Powers, South Londonderry, Vt., 69.2.
5. Jason Evans, Mount Snow, Vt., 69.0.
6. Todd Richards, Breckenridge, Colo., 68.7.
7. Joe Curtes, Vail, Colo., 66.9.
8. Luke Wynen, Reading, Pa., 65.9.
9. Jimi Scott, Carlsbad, Calif., 65.7.
10. Rob Kingwill, Jackson, Wyo., 65.5.
1. Cara-Beth Burnside, Orange, Calif., 64.6.
2. Jennie Waara, Sweden, 64.4.
3. Michele Taggart, Salem, Ore., 63.2.
4. Aurelie Sayres, East Haddam, Conn., 59.0.
5. Shannon Dunn, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 57.8.
6. Kyla Duffy, Killington, Vt., 56.0.
7. Tricia Byrnes, New Canaan, Conn., 51.2.
8. Sara Pehrson, Fergus Falls, Minn., 47.4.
9. Lauren Mollica, New Brunswick, N.J., 25.9.
10. Barrett Christy, Vail, Colo., 22.7.