All Photos: Chris Wellhausen
Shaun White wins final Mammoth Grand Prix halfpipe, Danny Davis makes US Olympic team
For Olympic halfpipe hopefuls the past month and a half of Dew Tour and Grand Prix stops all came down to Sunday's Grand Prix Olympic selection. Some riders like Taylor Gold and Kelly Clark had already locked their spots in but for others everything was riding on this performance to make the US team. The energy of the crowd at the bottom of the pipe rose and fell with the fortunes of the riders as some saw their Olympic dreams crushed and others secured their last-chance ticket to Sochi.
With four spots open on the men's US halfpipe team Greg Bretz, Taylor Gold, and Shaun White were looking good to make the cut before Sunday. But that fourth team spot was still up for grabs and Louie Vito, Scotty Lago, and Danny Davis were all within striking distance.
Louie landed his first run, putting him in second for the time being with a 90.40, while Scotty and Danny both fell on their runs. After Louie and then Scotty fell on their second runs, and Ben Ferguson scooped up second place with a massive run scoring 93.80, it was do or die for Danny.
By this point taking first appeared out of reach as Shaun White had posted a first run score of 96.60, which included his Cab 1440 double cork. But second was all Danny needed to make the Olympic team. He dropped into his final run and touched the sky with a switch method that looked even bigger than the one he did when he won the third Grand Prix stop on Friday. After laying down a Cab 1080, double crippler, chicken wing McTwist, frontside double cork 1080, and alley-oop backside rodeo 540 to switch backside 720 Danny picked up the needed second place with a 95.00.
For Danny the result was a redemptive moment. In 2010 he was one of the few riders capable of beating Shaun and had just qualified for the Olympic team when he severely hurt his back in an ATV accident. Danny recovered only to be plagued by more injuries over the last four years, so making the team marked the end of a long journey back to the level of riding he's truly capable of.
Kaitlyn Farringon pulls out unexpected win over Kelly Clark to make US team
In the women's pipe Kelly Clark was the only rider without much pressure as she had already had the points to make the US team, but Elena Hight, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington, Hannah Teter, and Arielle Gold were all in the running for the final three spots. Throwing a bit of a wrench into the works was 13-year-old Chloe Kim, who had the second US team position but since she's not old enough to go the Olympics, Arielle was next eligible rider, sitting third in the points standings, who looked poised to make the team. The rest of the women needed to finish first to make the team.
Elena Hight gave everything she had to land her alley-oop double backside rodeo but couldn't ride away. Gretchen added a frontside 900 into her run, but couldn't finish a clean run. Then Kaitlyn Farrington stepped up with a run that included a backside 900, switch backside 540, and Cab 720 to get first place. With Kelly Clark dropping last however, it seemed unlikely Kaitlyn's score would stand. Kelly has won the last four Olympic qualifying events in a row and looked unbeatable. But Kelly took a surprise fall on the her first run and even after landing the same technical run with a frontside 1080 to Cab 720 combo that gave her the win on Friday, Kaitlyn was still in the lead.
Kaitlyn was just as surprised that she beat Kelly as anyone. "I didn't think I was going to win when I saw her land her run," Kaitlyn said. "I didn't think I was going to make it, but once the score came up I was so excited."
Kelly, for her part was humble in the defeat, but didn't have much riding on today as she had already made the team. "I just come out to do my best," Kelly said. "I can't control what the judges think. I thought Kaitlyn had a great run and I was just happy to get up from my crash to be honest."
Hannah Teter took third place and also got a spot on the US team. "I definitely felt the heat," said Hannah. "But sometimes that makes me get in the zone--it's was all or nothing."
2014 Mammoth Grand Prix Men's Pipe Results
1. Shaun White
2. Danny Davis
3. Ben Ferguson
4. Louie Vito
5. Taylor Gold
6. Greg Bretz
7. Gabe Ferguson
8. Zach Black
10. Spencer Shaw
11. Brett Esser
12. Joe Mensch
13. Scotty Lago
14. Matt Ladley
2014 Mammoth Grand Prix Women's Pipe Results
1. Kaitlyn Farrington
2. Kelly Clark
3. Hannah Teter
4. Chloe Kim
5. Arielle Gold
6. Elena Hight
7. Kelly Berger
8. Summer Fenton
9. Gretchen Bleiler
10. Maddy Schaffrick