For riders who want a piece of Olympic gold, it will be a long road to Vancouver. Spots on the US Team—and every team around the world—are limited. Between the team selection process and individual eligibility requirements, it’s quite a pile to sort through—and not just for the riders, for the fans, too. But all we want to know is—will our favorite dude (or female) be on the Olympic team? Well, we can’t quite tell you that yet, but we can tell you a little about how it’s decided. After poring over some documents at the USSA web site, we hit up U.S. Team’s  Head Halfpipe Coach Mike Jankowski to help break it down a bit. For the full, unedited, official deal, go here.

Shaun White. Mount Seymour, B.C. Photo: Serfas

Shaun White. Cypress, B.C. Photo: Serfas

Individual Eligibility:In order to be eligible to compete in the Olympics, everyone needs one top 30 finish in one World Cup  event between Sept. 2008 and Jan 18, 2010. Mike adds, “This is the FISrule that basically makes sure anyone who ends up in the Olympics is competitive at an international level,” says Jankowski.

Olympic Starts:In order to have four available USA start spots for halfpipe, there must be four USA riders in the Top 40 of the FIS World Rank List. (Top 30 for the women). This list runs for about 1.5 seasons. The dates of the list are Jan 18, 2009 – Jan 18, 2010. This is similar to the process they used in 2002. “It makes each country earn their start spots so that the most competitive nations make it to the Olympics, and so that every small nation in the world can’t just enter people in whatever event.”

Then, our nation’s qualification process is the same as it has been. There are 5 Grand Prix events and based on each rider’s Top 2 results, a Grand Prix rank list is created. If the USA ends up with 4 men and 4 women in the World Rank List mentioned above, then the U.S. can enter up to that many riders in the Olympics for halfpipe.

These are the 5 Grand Prix pipe events:
December 11-12, 2009          Copper Mountain, CO
January 5-6, 2010                   Mammoth, CA
December 8-9, 2010          Mammoth, CA
January 22, 2010                  Park City, UT
January 23, 2010                  Park City, UT

And these are just for pipe. There are five qualifiers for each discipline(find the schedule for the others here). Jankowski adds that “Each nation can enter a maximum of 18 people between all of the snowboarding disciplines—halfpipe, snowboard cross, parallel giant slalom—the number of people we enter in each event is based on how internationally competitive we are in that event (i.e. medal chances). So each discipline needs to earn those start spots by having people ranked in the Top 40/30 in the FIS World Rank List. If we have more than 18 people eligible between all of the disciplines, then we have to look at which disciplines we are the most competitive in and name our team based on that. Based on the last Olympics, we would likely enter 4 men and 4 women in halfpipe then look at SBX, then ALP.”  Keep in mind that the results and positioning for each individual, as well as national teams are all still undecided at this time. Place your bets! Seriously, though, keep yourself updated on the Olympic selection process, right here. Stay tuned.

Kelly Clark. She's down. Photo: Serfas

Kelly Clark. She's down. Photo: Serfas

For more, check the US Snowboard Grand Prix site, here.