All Photos: Chris Wellhausen
Danny Davis and Kelly Clark win 2014 Mammoth Grand Prix #3 pipe
This morning marked the third of five Olympic pipe qualifying events, just two days before the majority of the US Olympic pipe team is decided on Sunday, and the level of riding was noticeably elevated. Ordinarily, anyone scoring in the 90s would be looking a podium spot but today seven out the 15 riders ranked in that range. With only three official Olympic spots being announced on Sunday, it was clear the riders were holding nothing back. That forth and final spot on the team is being decided at the discretion of the US team coaches and will be announced possibly after X Games.
To make up for the cancelled Breckenridge Grand Prix, the day was packed with two standalone finals--one in the morning, one in the afternoon--almost guaranteeing change-ups in the US team qualification standings once it was all over.
Yet with so much on the line Shaun White, who was qualified seventh for the US team before today, decided not to ride in the first contest. This meant that suddenly there would be a greater chance for other riders to earn a much-needed win before the US team is picked. Not that Shaun is unbeatable in pipe, as we saw when Greg Bretz took the top spot from him at the 2013 Dew Tour in Breckenridge back in December, but he's got a pretty good track record of winning. In fact, the last pipe rider to beat Shaun in the last four years other than Greg was Danny Davis at the Mammoth Grand Prix back in 2010.
Danny has been going huge and tossing out double corks since the Dew Tour, which was the first Olympic qualifying stop, but he couldn't find his way onto the podium. By the Copper Mountain Grand Prix a week later he was taking a different approach and mixing some little-seen switch tricks into his run--he was going for a switch frontside air to switch backside 540 on his final two hits but couldn't get that last trick.
Those runs at Copper were just a warmup for today. Halfway down Danny's first run he threw a frontside double cork 1080, which was a setup for an alley-oop switch backside rodeo 540 to switch backside 720. The judges rewarded that run with a 95.20, which held him the rest of the contest.
"Switch riding's something that, for some reason, doesn't get explored in halfpipe that much," Danny said of his win. "It's just more flips, more spins--you know, let's go 12, let's go 14, but there's a whole other way to ride and that's your un-regular stance."
Coming in hot behind Danny in second place was Taylor Gold with a run that included his nearly perfected frontside 1260. Matt Ladley picked up the third spot after narrowly edging out Louie Vito with his second run.
Going into today's first pipe event the top three pipe riders qualified for the US team were Greg Bretz, Taylor Gold, and Ben Ferguson, but the new placements shuffled the rankings putting Taylor Gold in the top spot. Greg was bumped to second and Danny Davis moved to third--temporarily that is, until the second men's final took place in the afternoon.
Kelly Clark undefeated in Grand Prix series so far
There was little surprise when Kelly Clark took the top women's pipe spot today--she's won everything since Dew Tour and will undoubtedly being going to the Olympics. With that knowledge and nothing really riding on the contest for her, she changed up her run and went with a more risky frontside 1080 to start things off.
"If you can do your most difficult trick up high, you're going to get rewarded for it," said Kelly. "Not only am I doing the 1080 first, I'm also doing my Cab seven out of it, which is my next most technical trick."
While Kelly’s setting the bar for the rest of the field, she’s still hoping to one-up herself at the final Grand Prix on Sunday with back-to-back 1080s.
Chloe Kim picked up second place and even though the 13-year-old is too young to go to these Olympics, she proved she'll be a force in the future after beating some women more than twice her age. She was grinning the whole time.
The rider to benefit the most from this morning's event was Hannah Teter who took the third spot. Hannah had been sitting in ninth on the US team list but the finish started her climb up the standings.
2014 Mammoth Grand Prix Men's Pipe #3 Results
1. Danny Davis
2. Taylor Gold
3. Matt Ladley
4. Louie Vito
5. Ben Ferguson
6. Greg Bretz
7. Chase Josey
8. Gabe Ferguson
9. Brett Esser
10. Spencer Shaw
11. Ryan Wachendorfer
12. Joe Mensch
13. Zach Black
14. Scotty Lago
15. Benji Farrow
2014 Mammoth Grand Prix Women's Pipe #3 Results
1. Kelly Clark
2. Chloe Kim
3. Hannah Teter
4. Kaitlyn Farrington
5. Gretchen Bleiler
6. Maddy Schaffrick
7. Elena Hight
8. Arielle Gold
9. Kelly Berger
10. Summer Fenton