If you remember, a while back we filled you in on Olympic eligibility. The Grand Prix is the U.S. Olympic qualifying series, but in order to to compete in the Olympics, everyone needs a top 30 finish in one World Cup event between September 2008 and January 18, 2010. U.S. Snowboarding Head Coach Mike Jankowski cleared up that, "This is the FIS rule that basically makes sure anyone who ends up in the Olympics is competitive at an international level." (Sometimes referred to as the Jamaican Bobsled rule … ouch.)
Today, one of the top worldwide contenders for the Olympic halfpipe podium only just qualified to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at the LG Snowboard FIS World Cup at Saas Fe, Switzerland. This summer, Kevin Pearce probably had planned to hit up the Burton New Zealand Open and then follow that up with a stop at the Cardrona World Cup to secure his top 30 spot (Shaun White, Mason Aguirre, Luke Mitrani, Scotty Lago, Gretchen Bleiler, and Kelly Clark among others all qualified here), but Kevin instead broke his foot at the Mammoth Frends pipe session in the spring and so missed that World Cup. The Saas event today was his last chance to get a top 30 World Cup placing—now, there's no doubt that he would have any trouble qualifying in top 30, but the 'what ifs' were there: what if his flight got canceled or he lost his passport, what if he came down with swine flu, what if he overslept. Anyway, the news from Saas Fe just came in and it's good—Kevin Pearce qualified in twelfth place and can now compete in the Grand Prix tour for a spot on the Olympic Team; fellow Frend Jack Mitrani also got his top 30 placement. Kazu Kokubo of Japan qualified in first, Mathieu Crepel of France came in second, and Peetu Piiroinen of Finland was third. Australian Torah Bright won it for the ladies.
The first stage of US Olympic halfpipe qualifying is done. Now on to the Grand Prix, the first stop is is December 12 at Copper Mountain, Colorado.