GB is certainly makin' the rounds on late night television. Our favorite Colorado bred U.S Olympian Gretchen Bleiler made an appearance on the Jay Leno Show after winning the gold at X Games and answers some tough questions. Always lookin' hot and always genuine, she gives us some insight into her life with things like the worst pick up line she's ever heard and what advice 50 Cent had for her...
Welcome to the 2010 Shaun White Games...
Let's just get right into the meat of it, shall we? Carnage seems to strike a cord with action sports fans so we'll start there. Torah Bright banged her head in pipe practice on Wednesday. Reportedly that's her second concussion in three days. Besides the fact that this just plain sucks, this also means we won't get to see Torah's rumored double-cork 900 in competition. (Torah's the only women who has attempted the famed double-cork.) Let's hope that Roxy's Bright-est star heals up in time for the Vancouver Olympics. As much as we all want an American podium sweep it's no fun if there isn't any competition.
Simon Dumont wins "Most Brutal Crash" of Winter X Games 14 (so-far at least), when he suffered this during practice. What you are looking at there is photographer Chris O'Connell's sequence of Simon's boosty 15-foot double-cork to body-whomp on the lip of the pipe. Simon knocked himself unconscious for a good three minutes, then stood up and walked away. The man apparently-made-of steel was seen out and about later that night at local watering holes, and still plans on competing this weekend.
Athlete's confess that this year's X Games superpipe is one of the "iciest" pipe's any of them have ever ridden, which may account for some of the pipe-mishaps and the fact that you can see your own reflection on the 22 foot walls.
With two of snowboarding's best pipe rider's laid up in hospitals in Salt Lake City the men's pipe contest is ripe for Shaun White's picking. Shaun smoked the competition in tonight's qualifiers and... here's the kicker... he was holding back in a big way, opting to keep his infamous double-McTwelve's under wraps. Going into Saturday evening's finals Shaun sits in his favorite position and has the advantage of dropping last after other pipe finalists including Louie Vito, J.J. Thomas and Luke Mitrani. Surprisingly, Olympian Scotty Lago didn't land either of his qualifying runs and failed to make it into X Games superpipe finals.
The only non-American that got up in the mix was Swiss rider Iouri "iPod" Podladtchikov who displayed his double-corks for the first time this season here in the State's, making sure we know he will be a big threat up in Vancouver. Twinkle-toes Vito came through on his promise to do some "air dancing" here in Aspen with his second run straight-air where he managed an awkward quadruple-shifty-roll-down-the-windows maneuver. He somehow got the grab though, and the judges scored him into tomorrow night's finals over rider's like Danny Kass and Antti Autti.
Shaun's going for a three-peat this year and it's looking like he pretty much has it in the bag. Only a catastrophic mistake on Shaun's part would keep him from the gold, and bottom line is... Shaun doesn't make mistakes.
If you've been following any of the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers then you have a pretty good idea of what went down on the ladies snowboard pipe side of things in this afternoon's women's superpipe qual's. With Australia's Torah Bright out of commission this year's Winter X Games girl's pipe comp is shaping up to look like a sixth Grand Prix. Kelly Clark qualified first, home-town hero Gretchen Bleiler second, Elena Hight in third and so-forth. Although Japan's Soko Yamaoka was able to sneak into Saturday's finals in the sixth spot.
Sarah Burke barely squeaked through Wednesday night's women's ski superpipe qualifiers, actually edging out Grete Eliassen who was knocked off the bubble when Burke dropped for her last qualifying run. Burke made it into Friday night's finals along with Megan (young) Gunning, Jen Hudak, Rosalind Groenewood, Anais Caradeux and Mirjam Jaeger.
There was an "OMG" moment at the men's ski slopestyle qualifiers when defending champ TJ Schiller couldn't put it down on any of his three qualification runs, taking himself out of the game and leaving the doors wide open for top qualifiers Andreas Hatveit, Sammy Carlson, Bobby Brown, Jossi Wells and Tom Wallisch. All the hype falls onto the shoulders of the Kiwi freeskier, Jossi, who just won the last stop of the Dew Tour and is fighting through knee-pain to put on a show for the fans. Tune in Saturday afternoon for the Men's Ski Slopestyle finals.
Tom Wallisch dials it in for men's ski slope practice
The only actual "Finals" competition, where medals were actually handed out, was for the women's ski slopestyle. Defending champ Anna Segal shook things up when she pulled out of the women's finals just minutes before competition. "I've been off skis for two and a half weeks and this [massive X Games slopestyle course] is not the place to get back on them." That move couldn't have favored Kaya Turski more. Kaya has won virtually every other contest besides Winter X Games. She wanted that X Games gold medal bad and she got it. Breckenridge's Keri Herman took second and Grete Eliassen rounded out third.
Oakley's Sammy Carlson finally get's to un-virgin the virgin drinks. Legally at least. Welcome to club 21 Sammy.
On the party front Oakley and Red Bull came out ahead of the game, kicking off the week by meshing all of the various X Games athletes with media and industry people and serving up sushi combined with free booze. All the star athletes were out, in fact, I'm pretty sure I saw Tanner Hall explaining his Rastafarian beliefs to Danny Kass over some California rolls. And rumor has it Shaun White's red hair even made an appearance after being kept concealed under an oversized black "dreadlocks-beanie" for the majority of the week. Can't blame the guy for trying to go incognito though. He is more famous then Obama around these parts.
Check back tomorrow for some more one-sided opinions about what's really going down here at the 14th annual Winter X Games in Assspen. (Insert "Dumb and Dumber" cliched movie quote about women flocking and beer flowing like wine here)
Mantle Image Courtesy of Nate Abbott/Shazamm/ESPN Images 2009
Here's who made the cut and will be representing the U.S. of A. up in Canuck land next week.
No surprise here right? The U.S. Snowboard team is made up of 18 riders with one man to lead them all... and that man is Shaun. No pressure then, eh?
Click this link to see Shaun's new weapon, the Double-McTwelve.
It would have been a little embarrassing for Louie to get all that hype on Dancing With the Stars this fall and not even make it on the Olympic team. But he did, and we're all rooting for the second most famous halfpipe rider in the world to podium in Vancouver. Beside Shaun, Louie is the only other American to have back-to-back double-corks.
This guy wins the vote's for hard-core fan's favorite going to Van next month. Lago will be riding in honor of his injured "Frends" crew member's Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis who, quite frankly, should be on the Olympic team as well.
The darkhorse... Everyone love's a darkhorse right? Bretz, at 19 year's old, won the three-way tie for the fourth ranking spot on the Grand Prix Olympic qualifying series. He just barely beat out Luke Mitrani and J.J. Thomas. Pressure is on kid.
Kelly won four of the five Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers this year. The only other person to do that was Shaun. Kelly botched up her 2006 Olympic run, handing over the Gold to teammate Hannah Teter, but she did win us the Gold on our homeland back in 2002. Kelly is kinda like the girls version of Shaun White these days. Pretty much unstoppable.
After narrowly missing the gold in 2006 you can bet that Gretchen wants to take the gold in Vancouver BAD. She only won one of the Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers but that doesn't mean she doesn't have what it takes to score big this February. When Gretchen "GB" Bleiler puts her mind to something she usually accomplishes it, just look at all the X Games she's won.
Hannah's got a heart of gold and an Olympic medal to match it. She donates all of her winnings to children in Africa, except for last week when she donated $10,000 to the Haiti rescue efforts after getting second at the last two Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers. Needy people everywhere are hoping Hannah scores big in Vancouver, because that means they score big.
It came down to the wire at the very last Olympic qualifier as far as who would take the fourth spot on the women's halfpipe team. Cutie-pie Elena beat out Ellery Hollingsworth to slide into the coveted team spot and will be aiming for her first podium spot at her second Olympic appearance this February.
Men's Snowboard cross:
Seth won the first ever gold medal in snowboard cross in Turin and you can bet on him going full-out for another gold in Vancouver.
Graham hails from the not-so-well-known sport of Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom but since his switch into snowboard cross he's been thriving. He is well aware of the dangers of snowboard cross carnage though, his first year on the circuit he saw two-people die during competition. Even with those horrible memories he still charges and is a big threat for Olympic snowboard-cross.
Even though Nate fell at the 2006 Turin Olympics he's won four Winter X Games gold medals... so yeah, you can say he has what it takes and plenty of experience to back it up.
Nick had to hold his breath for two-whole days to see if he got the fourth spot on the U.S. snowboard cross team. Luckily, the USOC allotted four spots to men's snowboardcross on the 18 man team, and Nick made the cut. He's got some good finishes under his belt, including a second place finish at a recent Spain World Cup, and hopefully he can keep that momentum up for Vancouver.
Women's Snowboard cross:
Everyone remembers Lindsey, blonde curly mane and all. She was the rider who pulled the method heard 'round the world in 2006- the one she fell on and subsequently gave away her first place lead in the snowboard cross final. But silver's not that bad and now Lindsey is back on top ready for another chance at gold.
At 17 years old this Salt Lake City native is the youngest rider on the U.S. Olympic team. Faye will be juggling the demands of high-school and the Olympics come this February as she goes out for her first Olympic appearance.
Born and bred in a small town in Alaska, Callan qualified for the U.S. Olympic year after only four year's on the circuit. At 24 she is proud to be the first Yupik/Inuit Eskimo to be on the United States National Ski and Snowboard Team.
Men's Parallel Giant Slalom:
Chris Klug has been there, done that, and is coming back for more. In Salt Lake City in 2002, just months after receiving a liver transplant to save him from a rare degenerative condition, Chris won a gold medal in PGS. Chris Klug is a super-hero in his own right, and continues to be a threat in PGS world competition.
This is Tyler's second time at the Winter Games, he came in 11th at the 2006 Olympics and is ready to best that finish this year in Vancouver. This Steamboat Spring's resident quit snowboarding in the late 90's to pursue an educational degree from Boston College, but came back in '02 to train for his Olympic dreams.
Women's Parallel Giant Slalom:
As the sole representation for the U.S. in the women's PGS event, Michelle considers herself a "proud italian" and actually has the nickname 'Pirelli' after the Italian racing tires for her speed on the slopes. This is Michelle's second Olympic appearance.
The superpipe at Park City, Utah, the final stop of the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers, has some serious Mo-Jo leftover from the 2002 Olympics when the American's swept the podium and brought halfpipe into the spotlight. Thousands of spectators added to the good Mo-jo when they came out to watch tonight's qualifier, but no one left the pipe any closer to knowing exactly who will represent the U.S. in Vancouver. They are going to have to come back tomorrow night to find that out.
The only two riders keeping things steady and predictable have already been named to the team. Shaun White and Kelly Clark both took first place under the lights tonight for the men and women, assuring that their spots on the Olympic team are justified- not that anybody ever questioned either of them. As for the other three spots on the four-man and four-woman teams? Your guess is as good as mine, but lets take a look at tonight's results and see how the rankings are stacking up.
Remember, the top two finishes out of the five qualifiers are counted in the rankings for the Olympic qualifying series. A rider that wins two of the qualifiers gets an automatic spot on the Olympic team.
The same four women have been battling for the three spots since Clark was named to the team after winning the first two qualifiers in a row. Gretchen Bleiler still leads the rankings with a first and a second place, and there was determination radiating from her eyes as she dropped into tonight's event. She wants one more win to assure herself a spot on the team, but fate had something else in mind for Bleiler tonight, and she left the pipe in blatant frustration with a disappointing fourth place. This left room for the other three girls to crank up their chances for making the team.
The battle between Ellery Hollingsworth, Elena Hight, and Hannah Teter intensified as each tried to nab the second and third place finishes. It was Teter who pulled it together for second place and Hollingsworth in third. Hight finished just after Bleiler in fifth. With a second place finish at the first Mammoth Mountain qualifier, Teter now sits neck and neck with Bleiler in the rankings, meaning both of them are in pretty good contention for the team. Hollingsworth and Hight will most likely be trying to usurp one another tomorrow night for the coveted fourth spot on the Olympic team.
Now, it's not so simple for the men, which is making it that much more exciting to follow.
The depth of talent runs deep on the men's side. After four of the five Grand Prix's there are six men all sitting in good contention for the three spots on the Vancouver team. While White has won three of the four qualifiers, the rest of the podium finishes have had more changes than a Lady Gaga concert.
Tonight's qualifier put Frend's Crew member and fan-favorite Scotty Lago back into prime contention when he stole the show in his first run with one of his best runs of the season. Greg Bretz, a young newcomer and previous dark-horse landed himself in third, putting himself back in contention as well. Before tonight's event both Bretz and Lago sat on the further end of the bubble in the rankings.
Louie Vito still has the best chances of making the team with two second place finishes, even with his lackluster sixth place finish tonight. Lago, Bretz, J.J. Thomas, Luke Mitrani and Zack Black are all pretty much neck and neck with high finishes in the four qualifiers, which means there is no safe bet on which of them will make the cut. Only what happens at tomorrow's qualifier will seal the deal, and all five men have as much of a chance as the other.
"This year the competition has been crazy. Just the level of progression is so intense." Lago explains, "I mean, everybody's got their tricks and they have them dialed in you know? All the double corks and what not."
Third place finisher Gretz backed up Lago's statement, "[Competition has] just been so crazy with the Olympics and all. Everyone is riding so well, but it's been really fun."
The naming of the U.S. halfpipe teams will come down to the wire in tomorrow nights final qualifier. Same place, same time, but if things keep going the way they have been, then it will be a whole 'nother story than what went down under the lights at Park City tonight. Check back tomorrow to find out who makes the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team.
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. - Competitors who win two of the five U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers receive an automatic "in" to next month's Vancouver Olympics.
Kelly Clark was the first to achieve that honor by winning the first two events, and Saturday that honor went to Shaun White, who took the first event at Copper and later in the day captured the third overall event.
If anyone was making bets on Shaun's performance before the Olympic Qualifiers they would have been disappointed last Wednesday. Most observers thought White was the overwhelming favorite to win every Grand Prix race. But in Wednesday's race White finished second behind Danny Davis, who was riding in tribute to his best friend Kevin Pearce, who is currently critically injured.
Apparently White's second-place finish fueled the fire for his performance Saturday.
White came out firing, posting a score of 47.00 on his first run. White's strong opening run allowed him to sit back and watch the rest of the competition as they tried to best his solid score. When no one overtook White he was able to take it easy on his next attempt and impress his fans with a victory run.
And impress he did. During his victory run White wowed the crowd with a trick most riders would consider unthinkable, a double McTwist 1260, and he nearly stuck it.
"It's a trick that's been messing with me for a while, but I'm excited to try and put it down in Park City and hopefully at the Games," White said.
Meanwhile, hearts were torn at the bottom of the pipe. White has always been a fan favorite, but Davis' victory in the last Qualifier had many hoping to see him return to the podium, proving to any doubters that Wednesday's win was no fluke.
Experts agree that Davis has what it takes to repeat his perfect, victorious run. But Saturday wasn't that day. He fell in both of his runs, leaving the doors open for White to claim his second Grand Prix victory and an automatic spot on the Olympic team.
Louie Vito, the crowd favorite dancing snowboarder, came in second with a highly technical and complex run, including a double cork and a cab double cork. His score of 45.60 edged out former Olympic bronze medalist J.J. Thomas, who laid down one of the more flawless runs of the day, keeping his amplitude consistently huge and linking his tricks with carefully practiced ease.
Vito, Davis and Thomas sit high on the list for making the U.S. Halfpipe Olympic Team, which will consist of four members. With two more Qualifiers later this month in Park City, Utah, each of them will be vying for one of the elusive spots on the team.
"I landed, I got a top three," said Vito. "That's all I really wanted and all I could hope for. Everyone's riding well and I have to keep stepping it up and I'm hoping for the best and what gets me to Vancouver."
Gretchen "GB" Bleiler won her first Grand Prix of the season in the ladies pipe final with a score of 44.10. Elena Hight finished second, at 43.30, by linking back-to-back 9's, a trick not many ladies can accomplish. Hannah Teter finished third with a score of 42.80.
OFFICIAL RESULTS 2010
Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix
Mammoth Mountain, CA - Jan. 9, 2010 Halfpipe
1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, Calif., 47.00
2. Louie Vito, Sandy, Utah, 45.60
3. JJ Thomas, Golden, Colo., 45.00
4. Luke Mitrani, Mammoth Mountain, Calif., 44.20
5. Zack Black, Breckenridge, Colo., 43.30
6. Steve Fisher, Breckenridge, Colo., 41.90
7. Scotty Lago, Seabrook, N.H., 39.40
8. Matt Ladley, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 39.30
9. Elijah Teter, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 37.90
10. Dylan Bidez, Minturn, Colol., 30.40
1. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, Colo., 44.10
2. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 43.30
3. Hannah Teter, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 42.80
4. Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, Vt., 41.80
5. Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, Vt., 41.60
6. Holly Crawford, Australia, 33.30
7. Clair Bidez, Minturn, Colo., 26.50