It's come to this, the final stop before the big show. The last two Grand Prix events this weekend in Park City, Utah are strictly for pre-qualified riders. Only U.S. riders who have earned at least one top sixteen result for men or one top eight result for women against the entire competition field in the previous three Grand Prix's are invited … with an exception of course—coaches discretion can add up to four men and two women. The list of invited riders is below—your U.S. Olympic halfpipe team will be harvested from this field.
Shaun White is confirmed thanks to two first place finishes—will he chill this event and save it for the main event, or is he going to bust out some of those shiny new tricks he's been polishing up the last couple weeks in Park City? Louie Vito has two 2nd places, JJ Thomas and Zack Black are next in line with a 3rd and 5th, followed by Scotty Lago with a 3rd and 7th, and Luke Mitrani with one 4th place finish. Danny Davis and Mason Aguirre's names both appeared on the start list, but Mason is out with a busted shoulder a Danny with a very unfortunate back injury. Kevin Pearce, as we all know, is slowly recovering from his head injury and we continue to send him well wishes.
We're noticing one name on here that could stir the pot—2006 Olympic Silver medalist Danny Kass. We know you've been wondering about this one—he had an ankle/foot injury earlier this winter, which he has since recovered from. He got back on the horse last weekend at the Mammoth Grand Prix placing 17th and 18th, not enough to qualify, but with the track record he has and the determination he showed, he'll be here on the coaches discretion card. U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Head Coach Mike Jankowski said, "He isn't a wild card in there, he's a top ranked rider, and I'm not just talking about his silver medal. He won the US Open pipe last winter, got injured, and now he's all healed up. You never know what can happen with Dan."
For women in order of current ranking Kelly Clark, like Shaun, has two first place finishes and is in. Gretchen Bleiler has a 1st and 2nd, Hannah Teter follows with a 2nd and 3rd, then Elena Hight with a 2nd and 5th, and Ellery Hollingsworth with two 5th place finishes.
After the Saturday night finals, part of the US Olympic pipe team—three men and three women—will be announced. The remaining riders will be announced on January 25.
In Snowboardcross and Parallel Giant Slalom news, it's not certain who will take the Olympic spots with just one competition left to qualify in Stoneham in Quebec at the Snowboard Jamboree Jan. 20–24. It will be the final stop for many of the international pipe competitors who are qualifying on the FIS World Cup circuit, as well as the U.S. SBX and PGS riders including 2002 Olympic Pipe Gold Medalist Ross Powers, 2006 Olympic SBX Silver Medalist Lindsey Jacobellis, Nate Holland, Seth Wescott, Nick Baumgartner, and Graham Watanabe.
We'll post updates from all these events over the weekend, follow us on twitter.com/twsnow so you don't miss out.