At the Buzzer, USOC Fields Snowboarding Dream Team

Moments after the final results of the Mammoth Grand Prix came in, U.S. Snowboard Team coaches and officials holed up in a hotel room making the decision we’ve waited years to hear: in the country where snowboarding began, who would be on the first-ever Olympic team? Power brokers remained behind the closed door for hours. After all the protests, rumors, and confusion surrounding team selection, the USSA (United States Skiing and Snowboard Association) stuck by its tradition of not fielding the team until just before the Olympics. Whoever they selected after opening that door on the last day of January would have less than a day to be on a plane to Japan for their date with Olympic destiny.

Barrett Christy lay on a couch in an adjacent lobby, covering her eyes and wishing the ordeal was over. Half of her woes came from over-celebrating the results of the final Grand Prix halfpipe competition the day before, the other half, from not knowing whether her standings in the three qualifiers would put her in Nagano with the historic team, or back home in Colorado to recover from too many contests.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) ultimately awarded the United States fourteen spots to create the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team. Twelve athletes qualified outright. The USSA and USOC (United States Olympic Committee) decided which riders would get the two available spots-men or women, halfpipe or GS-based on who had the best chances of actually medaling at the Games, regardless of discipline or gender. The question was as wide open as the three Grand Prix qualifiers.

Just before it was all decided, the door swung wide open and an obviously moved U.S. Snowboard Team Coach Peter Foley ventured into the lobby without a word to haul in Alpine racer Rob Berney. Halfpipe Coach Pete DelGiudice made a similar gesture to locate halfpipe-rider Bjorn Leines. A short time later, and with approval by USOC Director Of Games Preparation Greg Harney (by telephone from Nagano), a unanimous decision was reached.

According to Foley, the tight decision was determined by the results from the three Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers, plus an additional two riders-Christy and racer Lisa Kosglow-again, chosen based on their chances of medaling in Nagano. Christy took the freestyle spot over charger Leines due to her results in the 1996/97 Grand Prix events and by winning the ’97 U.S. Open. Kosglow got the nod over Berney by winning the FIS races in Nagano two seasons ago and being second at the ISF World Championships.

What was already a ground-breaking Olympic team became more so by its inclusion of female athletes over men. After all the contention and hype, their formal introduction to the loudly cheering mob made the staunchest cynics proud: a collection of top athletes in their prime, ready to take on the world. A short glimmer of hope for the dream, and the rest? History.

–Billy Miller

U.S. Snowboard Team

Winter Olympics XVIII, Nagano, Japan

Women’s Halfpipe

Cara-Beth Burnside, 29, Orange, California

Barrett Christy, 27, Vail, Colorado

Shannon Dunn, 25, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Michele Taggart, 26, Salem, Oregon

Men’s Halfpipe

Ron Chiodi, 24, Stratton Mountain, Vermont

Ross Powers, 19, South Londonderry, Vermont

Todd Richards, 28, Breckenridge, Colorado

Women’s Giant Slalom

Rosey Fletcher, 22, Girdwood, Alaska

Lisa Kosglow, 24, Boise, Idaho

Betsy Shaw, 32, East Dorset, Vermont

Sondra Van Ert, 32, Ketchum, Idaho

Men’s Giant Slalom

Adam Hostetter, 24, Tahoe City, California

Mike Jacoby, 28, Hood River, Oregon

Chris Klug, 25, Aspen, Colorado