MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. (Dec. 13) — Olympic medalist Shannon Dunn (Carnelian Bay, CA), who has all but made the Grand Prix a private hunting ground in its six seasons as the premier domestic snowboard series, and reigning national champion Danny Kass (Hamburg, NH) overcame tight competition and brisk winds Thursday to capture the opening halfpipe event in the Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix, a series of five HP contests leading to selection for the 2002 Olympic Team.
NBC will broadcast coverage at 2 p.m. EST on Dec. 23. What had been a blue-sky, calm day in the morning turned nasty in the afternoon with winds gusting to more than 30 miles an hour.
The top six men were just 3.4 points apart. Kass received 43.5 points as he edged Ross Powers (South Londonderry, VT), who had 42.2 with Norwegian Kim Christiansen, the 2001 world halfpipe champion, in third place at 41.0. The Norwegian and Swedish snowboard teams also are using the Grand Prix, in part, for their Olympic selections.
Completing the top five in the field of 111 riders: Andy Finch (Fresno, CA) in fourth and Shaun White (San Diego, CA) fifth.
In the women’s event at Mammoth Mountain, Dunn registered 37.6 points on her first ride for the win with former World Cup champion Tricia Byrnes (New Canaan, CT) runnerup at 35.7. Michele Taggart (Salem, OR) was third at 33.0.
“The men’s competition is gonna be insanely tight,” said U.S. Head Coach Peter Foley, who will be the Olympic head coach for the second time in February. “There are easily a dozen guys who could be on the team.”
Kass agreed with Foley as acknowledged the world-class field. “There’s a lot of great riders here,” he said. “This is a good start toward the Olympic Team.”
Dunn, who has won more than a half-dozen Grand Prix events – each with a $10,000 check or the winner, said her goal was to nail her first ride so she could try some new things in her final run.
“I wanted to be smooth and stylish. It’s kind of scary being the first event as a lot of us haven’t had a lot of time riding,” she said. “I don’t worry about pressure, so I can just focus on what I’m doing.”
Byrnes, clearly elated with her day, too, said, “I’m so happy. It doesn’t take any pressure off but it’s good to have it over. Having a clear first run was one of my goals.”
The second halfpipe in the Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain will be staged Sunday. Olympic selection will be based on a rider’s two best results in the five Grand Prix ‘pipe events.
CHEVY TRUCK U.S. SNOWBOARD GRAND PRIX
Mammoth Mountain, CA – Dec. 13
Halfpipe-1 (Better of two runs)
1. Danny Kass, Hamburg, N.J., 43.5 points
2. Ross Powers, South Londonderry, Vt., 42.2
3. Kim Christiansen, Norway, 41.0
4. Andy Finch, Fresno, Calif., 40.9
5. Shaun White, San Diego, Calif., 40.6
6. Tommy Czeschin, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 40.1
7. Keir Dillon, East Stroudsburg, Pa., 39.6
8. Luke Wynen, Reading, Pa., 39.2
9. Daniel Franck, Norway, 37.3
10. Kyle Clancy, Morrisville, Vt., 36.9 – Women
1. Shannon Dunn, Carnelian Bay, Calif., 37.6
2. Tricia Byrnes, New Canaan, Conn., 35.7
3. Michele Taggart, Salem, Ore., 33.0
4. Gretchen Bleiler, Snowmass, Colo., 32.6
5. Barrett Christy, Crested Butte, Colo., 29.9
6. Lisa Wilk, Norway, 29.3
7. Kelly Clark, Mount Snow, Vt., 28.3
8. Kim Stacey, Stratton Mountain, Vt., 27.9
9. Stine Brun Kjeldaas, Norway, 27.8
10. Kjersti Burass, Norway, 21.1