They ridicule one another without remorse, but Gretchen Bleiler, 20, and Kelly Clark, 18, are close: Close enough to finish each other’s sentences, and just a couple podium placings from the Olympics. With Clark in first, Bleiler, second, and teammate Tricia Byrnes third at Mt. Bachelor’s Grand Prix, a changing of the guard in women’s halfpipe is on. Clark’s McTwist and Bleiler’s Crippler make them dangerous?going huge and getting inverted. Listen as they take over.
Did you meet before you were on the U.S. Team?
Gretchen: She was fifteen, I was seventeen, and she was jealous of me.
KELLY: I couldn’t go out and she could. I was like, ?That bitch.?
GRETCHEN: Then the next time we met, I still hated her laughs. Last year was our first traveling together. And she’s a real pain?
KELLY: ?And she’s really anal.
GRETCHEN: I am. I?m anal. I like to fold my clothes, make my bed?and Kelly is a slob! laughs
KELLY: I’m getting better. She’s rubbing off on me.
GRETCHEN: She’s getting better.
KELLY: A lot better. Tricia’s Byrnes a slob, too. laughs
GRETCHEN: I’m transforming everyone on the team to good, clean people.
So Gretchen gets into a hotel room, takes her stuff out ?
KELLY: ? And puts it into the drawers immediately.
GRETCHEN: Oh immediately! Immediately.
KELLY: imitating Gretchen “Want to go eat?” “No one second, I?ve got to finish folding!”
And Kelly throws her bag on the floor?
KELLY: ?Pick and choose right out of the bag.
GRETCHEN: But you should see our condo?spic and span. Shining. Gleaming.
You room together when you’re traveling?
GRETCHEN: Tricia, Kelly, and I, we pretty much spend all our time together and it’s getting really old?just kidding!
KELLY: We all get along great.
GRETCHEN: We all placed first, second, and third today and no one was like ?
KELLY: ? Bitch!
GRETCHEN: We’re all happy for each other. It’s not cutthroat. We like to help each other out.
KELLY: We all push each other, we’re good friends and there’s no hostility.
GRETCHEN: Trish came down and landed a big McTwist and we were like?
GRETCHEN: ?Gotta do my Crippler. Did it. Landed it. Kelly came down, did her McTwist. Landed it.
KELLY: It’s great to have the opportunity to have actual girls to ride with. I rode with guys and if you didn’t try any tricks you were a dork.
You teach each other?
GRETCHEN: Yeah, because we all have?
KELLY: ?Different strengths in different areas.
When one of you stomps a trick there’s no jealousy?
GRETCHEN:KELLY: in unison What?
How about the level of competition this season?
GRETCHEN: I think this Mt. Bachelor was one of the best competitions we?ve seen this year for women. Everyone was throwing inverts and landing them with amplitude and riding out of them.
Why do you think that is?
GRETCHEN: The Olympics! laughs
KELLY: That was what they wanted to hear!
GRETCHEN: It’s definitely in the back of everyone’s mind. And in order to get there, you’re going to have to do your absolute best.
KELLY: You?re going to have to go for it. I think it’s good to see young people like ourselves stepping it up. And it was good to see Trish throw a “Mc” today. It all goes around.
How about international contests?
GRETCHEN: All last year we traveled to the World Cups, all the Grand Prixs ?
KELLY: Can I add a “whoo!?”
GRETCHEN: ? Vans Triple Crowns. U.S. Open. We’ve definitely done tons and tons of international competition. We know what to expect.
It seems like in competition, Euro riders totally go for it?Nicola Thost, Stine Brun Kjeldaas, Natasha Zurek ?
GRETCHEN: I think there’s definitely some good riders from all over the world. But I have to say, in the U.S. we have a huge group of women who are definite contenders for Olympic medals.
KELLY: There’s a lot of us here ?
GRETCHEN: ? Whereas in some countries you only have a couple girls and they’re automatically in. In the U.S. you have to fight for it more.
KELLY: It’s too bad the selection process only allows four. It’s too bad we couldn’t have more because there’s a lot of good Americans. Then it wouldn?t be so neck-and-neck between us.
So if you do go to the Olympics ?
GRETCHEN: Once we get there?if we get there?it’s on!
How about if you both get there?
GRETCHEN: I might do a Tonya Harding on this girl. laughs Eliminate the competition.
KELLY: So you want to go ice skating later? Play some baseball? laughs
GRETCHEN: Slowly, the girls all get sick. laughs
KELLY: Food poisoning. Hmm.
GRETCHEN: Right now my main goal is to get there.
KELLY: I think the Grand Prixs are a lot more high pressure because once you get there, you?re like, “I made it. Whatever. It’s awesome.” These contests are fighting for spots. Every one can affect how you end up.
GRETCHEN: Once you’re there, you’re good to go.
And you’ll be able to root for one another?
KELLY: Yep. Well, maybe. laughs
GRETCHEN: If Kelly’s not in the hospital by then. laughs