A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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    Event Details:

    Park City Mountain Resort
    Park City, Utah
    United States

    January 22, 2010 - January 23, 2010

    January 2010
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  • Three-way tie for last spot on the men's Olympic halfpipe team
    By: Adryan Roane Ritter

    What's harder than earning a medal in the men's halfpipe at Vancouver? If you ask the American halfpipe contenders it's just earning a spot on the U.S. halfpipe team. So hard, in fact, that after the five Olympic qualifiers there is a three-way tie for the fourth and final spot on the U.S. team.

    Shaun White, Louie Vito and Scotty Lago can all book their tickets to Vancouver. They each secured their spots by Saturday nights fifth and last qualifying event at Park City, Utah, and were officially named to the U.S. Olympic team, but it will take a two-day grace period to name the final Olympic team member.

    After a grueling season of competition, including major injuries and brutally long contest days, Luke Mitrani, J.J. Thomas and Greg Bretz all sit tied in contention for the coveted fourth spot on the team. As far as who will get the honor of representing the U.S. of A in Canada? We won't know that until Monday, January 25th.

    And so the million dollar question is... who will it be?

    As far as talent goes, there's a good reason those three are tied. They are all equally as capable, but each bring their own unique winning traits to the table.

    If experience were the only deciding factor, then Thomas would take the cake without a doubt. He already has an Olympic bronze medal under his belt from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and at 28 years he's the oldest of the three candidates. Thomas is consistent and has proven that he can deliver under the pressure of an event the size of the Olympics, but he is lacking something that many argue any Olympic halfpipe rider must have- the most progressive new trick out there- the double-cork.

    Where Thomas lacks, Bretz shines. He's got one of the best looking double-cork 1080's in the game, and he's only 19. Then again, he's only 19. And even though he's been riding since he was 5 years old, it wasn't until the 2008 season that Bretz was ever considered a contest threat. Bretz came into this season's Olympic qualifying events knowing that he was a long shot for the Vancouver team, which may have been his saving grace.

    "Coming into the year as the underdog is kind of nice because I don't have so much pressure on me. People don't really expect me to podium or to go to the Olympics at all." Bretz told GrindTV.com before the first Olympic halfpipe qualifier at Copper Mountain, CO.

    Pressure aside, Bretz was able to land some top finishes this season, including a third place podium at Friday night's Park City qualifier. But if Bretz does make the team there will be a world of pressure on him to perform in Vancouver, and it is yet to be seen if Bretz can withstand that kind of burden.

    If age matters in this decision making process, then Mitrani is facing the same problem. He's just months older than Bretz, although he's been under the spotlight since he was only 12 years old when he became the youngest member to join the U.S. Snowboard team. Since then he's been a staple at top-tiered contest's where he's been guided by his older brother, Jack, and the rest of the "Frends Crew", a notorious snowboard crew well known for dominating the competitive halfpipe scene.

    The influence of that same crew may be what gives Mitrani the edge over the other two contenders. The Frends Crew has suffered two devastating blows on their race to Vancouver when crew members Danny Davis and Kevin Pearce, both expected to headline the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team, were taken out of commission with serious injuries. There is no doubt that Mitrani has been fueling his fire by riding in honor of his fallen "Frends", and that fire could take him all the way to the top if he were able to make the Vancouver team.

    Over the course of the next two days a panel of officials and coaches will be deciding the fate of these three riders, and only one will make it onto the elite four man team. They will refer to United States Olympic committee's athlete selection procedures as well as the three athletes performance's and results from the five qualifying events. The full U.S. halfpipe team will be named officially on Monday, January 25th.
  • Park City Grand Prix Halfpipe #4: Olympic Team Spots Still Up for Grabs
    By: Adryan Roane RItter

    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.
  • Olympic halfpipe bronze medalist J.J. Thomas: "You could call it a comeback"
    By Adryan Roane Ritter

    2002 Olympic halfpipe bronze medalist and Vancouver Olympic halfpipe hopeful J.J. Thomas has a lot going against him.

    In 2006, Thomas blew his chances at qualifying for his second consecutive Olympics when he placed well outside the top-four ranking needed in qualifiers to earn his spot on the Torino team. For the majority of the last four years since then, Thomas has stayed out of halfpipes, instead focusing on filming backcountry riding movie parts for popular snowboard movies.

    Lately, Thomas is getting recognized more for his moustache than his '2002 Olympic podium, and at 28 years old, he is the oldest U.S. contender for the U.S. halfpipe team.

    When Thomas announced that he was going out for the 2010 Olympics, the news was met with concern and doubt. When he took it even further and quit filming movie parts so he could focus on his halfpipe training, he was immediately dropped by some of his sponsors.

    Despite years of accolades and esteemed accomplishments in snowboarding, including a bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics in '02, no one thought Thomas had a chance. Things were looking rough for the veteran of halfpipe snowboarding.

    How good it must feel to prove the critics wrong.

    Currently, after three of the five qualifying events, Thomas is sitting in the No. 3 spot to qualify for the select four-man U.S. Olympic halfpipe team, a feat that caught even Thomas off guard.

    "You could call it a comeback," said Thomas. "I guess mainly because I haven't been on the podium in a major halfpipe event since '05 or so. That qualifies [as a comeback] in my book."

    Thomas broke his long "losing" streak during the first Olympic qualifier of the season at Copper Mountain in early December. He finished third to land on the podium after '06 Olympic gold medalist Shaun White and fellow U.S. rider Louie Vito. Now, with consistent performances and solid riding in all three qualifiers, any suspicions that the first podium may have been a fluke have been thrown out the window. Thomas is back, and he's as much of an Olympic threat then ever.

    So how did Thomas get back on top so fast after a four-year contest hiatus from competition?

    "Everyone keeps saying how it seems like my riding just clicked all of a sudden," said Thomas. "But that's not just it. I've been working so hard for it. I was back in the contest scene in '09, but I kept placing just out of the top five. I was back, but since I wasn't on the podium I was flying under the radar. I decided to go for it last season, and the difference this time around was the amount of dedication I put into it."

    Thomas notes how much more intense the competition has become since his first Olympic appearance, "The biggest difference in snowboarding now from '02 is the amount of work people put in. You have to work hard these days to be at the top and you can see it pay off for guys like Shaun [White] and Louie [Vito]."

    The American podium sweep at Salt Lake City that Thomas was a part of was a major catalyst in the general public's acceptance of snowboarding as a viable sport. Practically overnight, snowboarding went from outcast to all-the-rage. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the sponsorships, endorsements and the pressure on the the professional's to perform.

    By the time Thomas arrived at the Olympic qualifiers in '2006, the game had completely changed. It wasn't just a seasonal hobby anymore. Competitors had started traveling back and forth from the northern and southern hemispheres to stay in-season and train year-round. Thomas hadn't been prepared for that kind of dedication from his competition and went into the qualifiers unprepared in comparison.

    "In '06 I was just going through the motions, you 'know? My heart wasn't in it," he admits.

    Thomas qualified ninth that year, missing the team by five spots. That was when he turned his back on contests and started exploring another side of professional snowboarding, filming.

    Over the next few years, Thomas appeared in many highly acclaimed snowboarding videos, including Oakley and Red Bull's "The Community Project," Mongo Pro Productions "Who Cares" and most recently Standard Films "Aesthetica." As expected, Thomas excelled in his segments and kept his fame and solid-gold reputation going strong within the respected snowboard community.

    Thomas could have stayed in that comfortable backcountry zone, out of the limelight yet still involved. But after putting some serious thought into it he made up his mind. He entered the '09 competition season with Vancouver 2010 as his goal.

    "It was a scary decision, but I'm glad I did it," he said. "I started to realize that filming is less rewarding to me then contests. I like the people on the circuit; I like the places we get to go. I'm really happy being a contest rider. And then I thought that if I was going to do this, then I had to do it now.

    "The major difference for me this year from '06 is that I actually committed 100 percent this time. I started this journey last year and worked hard straight through the year. It's the first time I've ever done this in my career, so it's nice to see it paying off."

    The final two qualifying events will take place in Park City, Utah, this Friday and Saturday. By Saturday night, the team will be announced, and Thomas will know whether or not his Olympic comeback attempt was a success.

    "My plan is to keep doing what I've been doing this season. No drastic changes or anything out of the ordinary."

    Being the old hand that he is, Thomas is all too familiar with how quickly his No. 3 ranking can change over the course of the next two superpipe contests. A surplus of young, unapologetic and hungry riders are vying for the very same spot on the team.

    "I want to go to Vancouver, I want it bad," he says. "But I'm also so grateful already. I went to the Olympics, I got a medal. I'm lucky to have done that and had that experience.

    "I've been working so hard for this. My body is feeling good and it's nice competing with a wiser and more mature head on my shoulders. I can't work this hard and just retire or go back to filming, even if I don't make it to Vancouver. I'm not sure what the future holds, but either way I see myself competing in the halfpipe for another few years at least."

    Do with that information what you will, but it sounds like J.J. Thomas just threw down the gauntlet for another couple years.

    If you want to follow J.J. Thomas' Olympic comeback progress join his facebook page, "The Moustache Rides, Go JJ Thomas for 2010," where he promises to post updates of his journey and "feature other great moustaches as well."
  • Injuries changing the dymanic for men's U.S. halfpipe team
    By Adryan Roane Ritter

    It's been a turbulent season for the men's U.S. Olympic halfpipe hopefuls. Last month the snowboard community had visions of another American sweep of the podium in Vancouver, as they did in 2002, or the one-two punch of gold and silver, like they did in 2006.

    At the tip of the U.S. spear were riders including Shaun White, Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis, who represented a halfpipe dream team for the Americans. Now, with Pearce and Davis both suffering season-ending and career-threatening injuries in the past three weeks, the vision seems like it could be slipping away.

    Pearce was the first hopeful to be tragically taken out of the running when he suffered a traumatic brain injury while training. He remains in a Utah hospital in serious condition.

    This past Sunday, Davis' dreams also were dashed when he was involved in an ATV accident in Utah. The damage to his back required surgery on his L3 vertebrae.

    With two of America's best riders down for the count, the U.S. team is now operating off of Plan B. Yet during practices this week in Park City, Utah, nobody is dwelling on the setbacks. Instead, riders are rallying, pressing forward with the same goal of dominating, only with different players in mind. Morale, surprisingly, is still high.

    "What happened to Danny [Davis] and Kevin [Pearce] has been hard on the whole community," says Olympic team contender J.J. Thomas. "I think that it has made us all be a little more thoughtful on and off the hill and it's a reminder to appreciate your health. It's important to remember that Danny and Kevin will comeback and be back at the top. They are both some of the worlds best and if they want they will be right back where they left off."

    The idea of a "Dream Team" may be gone, but results of the first three qualifying events indicate that theres still a powerful squad in the works. Each hopefuls top two finishes out of the five qualifiers count toward their ranking.

    White, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, has already secured his slot thanks to two qualifier victories. Louie Vito, the standout on last fall's hit TV show "Dancing With the Stars, has emerged as the No. 2 man heading into the final week of qualifiers. His consistency and technical aptitude have kept him sure-and-steady, but Vito's performances lack the serious risk factor that some of his teammates are famous for.

    Davis, for example, is best known for never compromising his radical approach. While not as consistent as Vito, he has wowed fans and judges, as he did two weeks ago when he defeated White via what's widely considered the best run ever in halfpipe competition.

    Vito stays within himself, utilizing only tricks he knows he has dialed and keeping his amplitude under control. Whether this is just a tactic Vito is using to secure his slot on the team or if this is the same riding we'll see in Vancouver is anybody's guess, but it's this author's inkling that Vito has a few surprises in store.

    While Vito has climbed the ladder, the third and fourth slots on the mens halfpipe team are now wide open to a handful of unassuming rider's to put in their bid for the team.

    The names already sitting in the No. 3 and 4 slots headed into this weekends final selection could be surprising: 2002 Salt Lake City bronze medalist, J.J. Thomas, and the virtually unheard of Zack Black from Breckenridge, Colo.

    Thomas, now 28 years old, returned to the competitive scene this season with a new gusto for pipe riding. While hes routinely honored for rounding out the first podium sweep in Salt Lake City, hes considered the "old guy" in the pipe. Yet his years of experience are paying dividends in the qualifiers. Thomas' ease with the contest scene and total show of confidence under pressure is what got him back up on top where, by the looks of it, he never should have left.

    The biggest surprise, however, is 18-year-old Black. Hes the mysterious dark-horse who no one saw coming and no one knows much about, other than he prefers the same go-for-broke approach that put Davis and Pearce on everybody's watch list. What we do know is that Black has been honing his act in the perfectly cut pipes that Breckenridge is known for.

    Other American riders like Luke Mitrani, Scotty Lago and Greg Bretz still have a legitimate shot at a team spot and shouldnt be counted out yet. If there's one thing we've learned in this tumultuous race to Vancouver, things can change in the blink of an eye.

    With so much uncertainty now on the halfpipe side of things, the final two qualifying events in Park City, Utah, this weekend promise to be the most exciting events in the series.

    "It comes as no surprise to us that it's coming down to the last two events to name the Olympic team, says U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe head coach Mike Jankowski. With the level of riding that's been going on and the intensity that's increasing, the competition is tight. It's nice to see everyone from people who have been in the game a long time like J.J. [Thomas] and Kelly [Clark], as well as new guys like Zack [Black] and Louie [Vito], who are coming on strong."
    Both the men's and the women's U.S. halfpipe teams will be announced after the last event on Saturday, Jan. 23, at Park City Mountain Resort.
  • My Athletes

    US Snowboarding Grand Prix Park City 2010 is linked to 25 athletes on GrindTV.

  • Information About the Event

    There are two final Grand Prix Olympic Qualifying events taking place this weekend at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. These competitions will be held this Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th, both beginning at 6:30 PM MTS.

    These are the two final events that will determine who will hold a spot the elite US Olympic Halfpipe team.

    The following riders have been invited for these events and will be competing on Friday and Saturday's events:

    Guys:
    Shaun White
    Louie Vito
    Danny Davis (Will not be competing due to injury)
    Scotty Lago
    Greg Bretz
    Zack Black
    JJ Thomas
    Elijah Teter
    Steve Fisher
    Jack Mitrani
    Andy Finch
    Matt Ladley
    Brennen Swanson
    Broc Waring
    Dylan Bidez
    Luke Mitrani
    Mason Aguirre
    Danny Kass

    Girls:
    Kelly Clark
    Gretchen Bleiler
    Hannah Teter
    Ellery Hollingsworth
    Madeline Schaffrick
    Clair Bidez
    Kaitlyn Farrington
    Kelly Marren

    SCHEDULE

    Friday, January 22, 2010


    5:30 - 6:20 p.m. Halfpipe Finals Warm-up

    6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Men's Women's Halfpipe Finals 
(Awards immediately following)


    Saturday, January 23, 2010


    
5:30 - 6:20 pm Halfpipe Finals Warm-up
    
6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Men's Women's Halfpipe Finals 
(Awards immediately following)

    8:45 - 10:00 p.m. FREE Concert and Winter Games Team 
Announcement

  • Photos From the Event

    US Snowboarding Grand Prix Park City 2010 has favorited 41 photos on GrindTV.

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