Third Olympic Qualifying Stop Added To Mammoth, FIS Denies Rider Appeals
Part of the Five Stops To Sochi series presented by Mammoth
In the aftermath of the Breckenridge Grand Prix cancellation, the US Ski and Snowboard Association confirmed its plans today to add a US-only halfpipe and slopestyle qualifier to the Mammoth Grand Prix. Three qualifiers will now be held instead of the originally scheduled two and will run Thursday through Sunday. The Mammoth Grand Prix is the last chance for riders looking to make the US Olympic team heading to Sochi in February.
Any US riders who competed at Breckenridge can compete in the newly-added third qualifier, which is a USSA-only event and not part of the FIS or TTR rankings. The FIS and TTR co-sanctioned a series of events leading up the Olympics including the Copper and Breckenridge Grand Prixs.
The cancellation of the Breckenridge Grand Prix due to weather created controversy last Saturday when it was announced that none of the qualification scores could be used towards Olympic team rankings. That put US riders, and those from nations such as Norway and Sweden who were using the event as part of their Olympic team qualifiers, in a tough spot.
US riders Jamie Anderson, Ty Walker, and Norway's Kjersti Buass immediately said that they planned to appeal the decision and then gained support from other riders who also weren't happy with the call.
Breckenridge was the last qualifying event for the Norwegian team so the situation was most difficult for three-time Olympian Kjersti Buass who needed a top 10 finish to meet Norwegian Olympic federation requirements. She had qualified third, and if the results stood she would have been set.
"It leaves me in a waiting game," Kjersti said. "I'm not worried about my spot, but I am worried about whether the Norwegian Olympic federation will approve my qualification. Hopefully things will get sorted out."
“I’m really proud that slopestyle women got together and found a common voice,” she added. “It’s what we need to keep snowboarding rider driven. If anything we are more connected as a community because we stuck together.”
Norwegian team coach Thomas Harstad was also frustrated by the call to scrap qualification scores and filed a complaint with the FIS. "Kjersti needed to prove herself with a top 10 at an event to be able to go to Sochi," he said. "Now we've got to work it out to see if the Olympic committee in Norway will still accept the results even if the event was canceled. For the guys for example, it was bad. Ulrik [Badertscher] made finals and it would have been a good opportunity for him to get a good placement because there are so many guys competing for the spot on the Norwegian team. Now we have to look at all the other events instead."
But despite all the problems the cancellation caused for some riders, the FIS denied the appeals that were submitted. In an email FIS media coordinator Oliver Kraus said, "The Appeals Commission reviewed all the jury documents and after considering all the facts, the commission concluded that the jury acted properly. The ICR Rules 2605 (Half Pipe) and 3004 (Slopestyle) define that 'Only the finals shall determine the final ranking for the qualified competitors.' So, it’s unfortunate for the athletes but FIS has to follow the rules."
Acting as a representative for the women’s slopestyle group who filed an appeal, Chanelle Sladics said that the women will be moving forward with another appeal with legal support. They intend to find justice, she added, as this was not handled democratically, nor fairly.
US riders at least will get another shot to see who makes the team, which US Olympic team head coach Mike Jankowski thinks is a good thing. "A five event series is the best way to name a team to the Olympics," he said. "Having your best two results out of those five opportunities allows for everyone to have a shot at putting down their best runs and creating a good fair rank list that we can use determine the team."
For slopestyle rider Sage Kotsenburg, three qualifiers in a row sounds like a lot. "Honestly I think three contests in two days on one course is kind of crazy," he said. "There's two in one day—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It's a little bit tiring and the course isn't going to change. So three contests on one course over two days. They are some pretty sick rail options so I'd love to switch up my run from contest to contest but it just doesn't offer a lot of diversification."
The addition of the third qualifier was also bitter sweet for Jamie Anderson. "I was disappointed that we put so much effort and energy out in Colorado and they weren't able to honor the qualifying results," she said. "But I'm thankful that we're having another event at Mammoth to make that up. It's good that everyone gets an equal, fair shot at the final, but it's not fair to all the international riders that don't have a chance to make up that final."
One good thing about all this at least: "It's sick at Mammoth," said Sage. "The course is so fun."
Stay tuned as we get back to actual snowboarding at Mammoth on Thursday.