If you happened to missthe Olympic Winter Games and the unbelievableperformances turned in by U.S. snowboarders, you havea second chance. The best riders in the country,including all five Olympic medal winners, will be atNorthstar at Tahoe March 28-31 for the X-nix U.S.Snowboard Championships.
The north end of Lake Tahoe will be rocking asnational champions will be named in snowboardcross andslalom, as well as halfpipe and parallel giant slalom(PGS), which were both 2002 Olympic events in ParkCity, Utah.
ESPN will air coverage of the championships April 13at 2 p.m. EST.
The prize format for this year?s championships hasbeen switched up. The winners from the halfpipe andPGS events (both men and women) will receive new ChevyS-10 ZR2 trucks, which will surely bring the massesout to compete for their chance at a new ride. In thepast, the championships doubled as the Chevy TruckU.S. Snowboard Grand Prix finals, with only theoverall tour winners (men?s and women?s) driving awayin a new truck.
The championship superpipe contests will be epic asfour Olympic medal winners are slated to compete. Onthe men?s side, Ross Powers (South Londonderry, Vt.),Danny Kass (Hamburg, N.J.) and JJ Thomas (Golden,Colo.) are fresh off sweeping the pipe podium, whileKelly Clark (Mount Snow, Vt.) won the women?s gold inUtah.
Powers? list of accomplishments is second to none. Thetwo-time Olympian added a gold medal to his ?98 bronzeby ripping up the Park City superpipe in February. Heannihilated the field by pulling arguably the biggestairs ever launched in a halfpipe.
Kass? resume is impressive as well. Aside from hissilver medal, he?s also the reigning U.S. halfpipechampion. He?s won the X Games, the U.S. Open and wasthe ?01 Grand Prix overall champion. Always a crowdfavorite, Kass stokes everyone with his immense airs,including the Cab 1080.
Thomas has really busted on to the scene this season.He was the final rider named to the Olympic squadafter a phenomenal win at the Breckenridge Grand Prix.A week later, he won the X Games at Aspen. About amonth after that, he won a bronze medal in his firstOlympic Winter Games.
It was the first American medal sweep in any Olympicevent since 1956.
?The sweep is huge,? said Powers. ?To have Danny andJJ right there?the U.S. sweep after everything that?shappened in the States is huge for us. Snowboardingstarted in the States and to sweep it here in our homecountry, it?s awesome for sure.?
U.S. Team rider Tommy Czeschin (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.)was the fourth American to compete in halfpipe at theOlympics. He ended up finishing sixth, so he?s hopingfor a stronger finish at nationals. Andy Finch(Fresno, Calif.) is also a player as he won a FISWorld Cup in Japan in early March.
The day prior to the men?s sweep in the halfpipe,Clark got things started by winning the first everU.S. gold medal in the sport of snowboarding. Her goldmedal run consisted of patented huge airs, including aMcTwist, which very few women are capable of pullingcleanly in competition. She?s no stranger to ruling atthe U.S. Championships as she is the reigning champ inboth halfpipe and snowboardcross.
Clark will have plenty of competition at Northstar,including teammates Gretchen Bleiler (SnowmassVillage, Colo.) and Tricia Byrnes (Stratton Mountain,Vt.). Byrnes was sixth at the Olympic Winter Games andgoes into nationals after winning a World Cup in Japanin early March. Bleiler just missed out making theOlympic squad, but has the experience and results totake Clark?s crown away from her.
Turning to the hard booters, Chris Klug (Aspen, Colo.)is a favorite in the PGS after winning the bronzemedal in Park City. A two-time Olympian, Klug has madea miraculous comeback after undergoing a livertransplant in June of 2000. He returned to action justa few months later and ended up winning the PGS at the?01 nationals at Sunday River, Maine.
Olympians Jeff Greenwood (Hartford, Conn.) and RoseyFletcher (Girdwood, Alaska) aree looking to retaintheir slalom titles. Fletcher was a double winner atlast season?s championships, taking victories inslalom and parallel giant slalom.
The alpine talent pool runs deep and includesOlympians Peter Thorndike (Meredith, N.H.), LisaKosglow (Boulder, Colo.), Lisa Odynski (Reno, Nev.)and Sondra Van Ert (Ketchum, Idaho).
The snowboardcross will be the first of the season onthe Grand Prix circuit. U.S. Team rider Seth Wescott(Farmington, Maine) and Amy Johnson (Rochester, N.Y.)are favorites to dethrone last year?s champions ?Jason Evans (Mount Snow, Vt.) and Clark. Wescott heldthe title after winning at the ?00 nationals.
The X-nix U.S. Snowboard Championships comes on theheels of the biggest international snowboard event inhistory. The Olympic Winter Games featured the besthalfpipe contests in history (in front of 20,000 fans)and followed that up with some exciting head-to-headracing action in the PGS. The sport of snowboardingand its massive progression was seen by the world, andit will continue, albeit on a smaller scale, atNorthstar.
X-nix U.S. Snowboard ChampionshipsMarch 28-31, 2002Northstar at Tahoe, Calif.
Thursday, March 28; Snowboardcross finals; 10 a.m.Friday, March 29; Superpipe qualifications; 8 a.m.Friday, March 29; Slalom finals; 10 a.m.Saturday, March 30; Superpipe finals; 11 a.m.Sunday, March 31; Parallel Giant Slalom finals; 10a.m.