It’s interesting to note that weather that’s good for snowboarding is not necessarily weather that’s good for snowboard contests, and blizzards in particular qualify in this category. However, despite a snowstorm of giant proportions and an official postponement from yesterday due to low visibility, the Mt. Bachelor Grand Prix Olympic qualifier did happened today, allowing more several riders to unofficially clinch more U.S. Olympic Halfpipe Team spots. It was exciting as it was cold, damp, and blustery.
First off, I should mention that there was a nasty stomach flu virus making the rounds of the competition roster: we’re talking explosions out both ends if you know what I mean and other unpleasantness that won’t be detailed here. Keir Dillon, Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter, Scotty Lago, the list of afflicted goes on and on. But it’s the nature of competition that occasions absolutely must be risen to, which is exactly what these competitors did. Although Kelly and Hannah were on the mend, Gretchen actually got sick the morning of the contest, and it’s a testament to her seasoned contest prowess that she set down her winning run like she has so many times before: big Crippler off the first hit, and then working her way into front-to-backside 540 combo and finishing up with a frontside seven. If she can do this run in the throes of the stomach flu, she can sure as hell do it in Torino—and she’ll have to. With two wins, she’s unofficially clinched a U.S. Team spot. Hannah Teter worked her way into second with a frontside 540, a Cab five, and some nice and big straight air thingies. With a first and a second in the bag, then, she is also unofficially going to Torino it seems. And third on the podium was Elena Hight, who has back to back 720s in her back, not to mention a backside 540. She’s sitting pretty in the number three Olympic contender spot, as well.
Now, the men, it’s the young guns like Scotty Lago, Danny Davis, and Mason Aguirre who are really making a drive for Olympic spots, all three of whom have multiple 1080s in the trick bag. Judging by his practice runs, Scotty could have easily made podium here by dropping into frontside 1080 and working his way through a Cab seven and then backside 1080. However, he fell first run and second run lost a bit of speed so couldn’t do the backside ten. This was not the case with Davis and Aguirre, however, who both ended up on the podium again in a repeat of the top three results from the second Breckenridge Grand Prix. Danny D easily earned third with back to back tens, and a backside 900 into an inverted nine—insane! According to the judges, Mason upped his ante for second with huge airs, back to back 1080s, a big backside five, and a frontside 900. Shaun’s first run score from a run of backside 900, Cab 1080, frontside 900, and a giant McTwist, however, had him in first throughout the entire contest by a long shot, so his second run was really just a mellow victory lap.
While it’s true that the top three finishers all ripped, the second and third place podium spots were absolutely up for grabs until the last minute. Some other serious contenders included Keir Dillon, who goes HUGE but strangely fell both runs. Andy Finch, who had hands down the biggest amplitude in this snowy competition pipe. And Salt Lake bronze medalist JJ Thomas, who has a brand new run this year that includes dropping into a frontside 1080, a backside rodeo (AKA the Michalchuk), and his signature, giant alley-oop McTwist.
So … besides Shaun’s Olympic spot, which is obviously on lockdown after winning his THIRD Grand Prix halfpipe today, the other two spots and alternate spot are still undecided, although Mason is set up pretty, as is Danny Davis. Torino looks like it could be all new blood!
MORE PICS IN THE SLIDESHOW