U.S. Olympic Pipe Spots In Jeopardy

As of February 8, 2001, the United States has earned no spots in the men’s Olympic halfpipe event. This is really bad.

Riders have to earn the spots by placing high in FIS-sanctioned snowboard contests around the world. The easiest way to get these points are on the FIS World Cup tour, but because of injuries, sicknesses, lack of interest, and overall apathy, U.S. riders haven’t participated at FIS events to earn points.

We caught up with Jeremy Forster who works for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and organizes the Chevy Truck Grand Prix events to get the low-down on the situation.

So we have zero spots for the men’s Olympic halfpipe competition?

If it ended today, we’d have zero or maybe one spot for the men’s Olympic halfpipe based on the FIS points that the riders have to earn for the November 1, 2001 points list. We need to have four people in the top 35 men on the list for halfpipe to get the maximum spots and four out of the top 25 for women. We give some points from the Grand Prixs, but the best way to earn FIS points is by going to FIS World Cups, which none of the riders want to do.

Park City is coming up the first of March and there’s a contest in Japan at the end of February, so hopefully some riders will go to those. It’s your average best two results, so if someone gets a first or second at a World Cup and a first or second at an event like this, maybe that’s enough to get the U.S. a quota spot. It’s all kind of a gamble. We’re just trying to figure out which riders can go where.

Will there be contests over the summer?

There might a World Cup in South America over the summer and there might be some Continental Cups worth 500 points as well. We might schedule some pipe contests up at Hood over the summer just so we can get some more points.

You can do that?

It sucks to pay the points game¿to just throw a contest just to get the points. When was the first or last time that that happened? Never.

The girls have been doing a little better. I think we might have two or three spots right now. We have to maintain those points now. Tricia Byrnes has been doing pretty good and so have Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark.

But just because they earn the quota points doesn’t mean they’ll get the spots?

Right. We earn our team size this season and through November 1. Then we figure out which riders take those spots through the selection process next year before the Olympics, which will consist of five halfpipe events next season. We’re still waiting on the approval from the USOC and then we’ll announce it. But there will be five halfpipe events including the Grand Prixs in the U.S. to determine those riders.

On the Alpine PGS (parallel giant slalom) side it’ll be the Grand Prix and World Cup events because those guys need their FIS seeding at the Olympics. Ideally they want to be in the top 15 of the seeding. We’re doing better getting the quota on the Alpine side, but it’s also a tougher situation because every country is going though this, the level of competition is getting tougher, and it’s harder to get the results. Everyone is riding well but it’s harder to get the points.

The Alpine riders don’t have anywhere else to compete, though. With the pipe riders, there are lots of other events other than FIS events, so it’s hard to get them to go to the World Cups.

Like when the Vans Triple Crown at Sierra is at the same time as the Park City FIS World Cup?

Yeah, but they’ve tried to move the pipe contests to different days so riders can go from one to another. We have ten spots to fill for the men at Park City, so hopefully riders who already have some points, like Danny Kass who has 260 points from the AST and the Breckenridge contests, will go to Park City and get more.

The AST contests get the same FIS points as the Grand Prixs do. They follow the FIS format exactly, but we do our own formatat the Grand Prixs that we think is better for the riders. So we have to argue our case to the FIS to get the points.

So Breckenridge and this one don’t count toward FIS points?

We’re still appealing to the FIS for the points. Okemo has been scored and counts for FIS points. But I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing the quality of the competition.

So the judging format here is best one out of two runs?

Yeah, and so is the FIS format. But in our qualifications, we give everyone two runs, take the best, and cut it down to the top 20 men and top 10 women. In FIS, they do that funky cut-down system and then they have ten men and six women. So they take a field of 100 men and cut them down to ten. That seems a little harsh.