JJ Thomas and Kelly Clark land wins in the final Olympic Qualifying event and finilize the spots on the team.
Complete coverage on the way. Stay tuned for the latest developments from Breckenridge. While you’re waiting here’ how it stacked up coming into today’s pipe.
Bets anyone? After four qualifying events that were supposed to select the U.S. Olympic snowboard team, it’s all coming down to one pipe event held on one day. Going into this weekend’s Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix at Breckenridge, Colorado, eight snowboarders still have mathematical chances at earning one of the remaining spots on the team, including Tommy Czeschin, Luke Wynen, Andy Finch, Danny Kass, Keir Dillon, and Shaun White. Even J.J. Thomas and Todd Richards have outside chances.
The team selection is based on the rider’s best two results from the five Grand Prix events. The top-three placing riders will be named to the team.
To make matters more confusing, there will most likely be a fourth men’s halfpipe rider named to the team on January 28, depending on how the Alpine racers do during their upcoming competitions in Europe.
The only rider who’s got a spot nailed down is Ross Powers, who won at the Mt. Bachelor Grand Prix last weekend and also scored second places at the first two Mammoth events.
But to show how close (and confusing) the rest of the pack is, four different men have won the first four events including Powers, Kass, Wynen, and Czeschin, who took yesterdays event at Breckenridge.
Czeschin is in the driving seat for one of the two spots left with a third place finish to back up his first place. Having won the contest on Thursday definitely took some pressure off. “Tomorrow is like any other contest,” he says of the final Grand Prix. “I’m going to try and ride my best. If I’m in the top three, I’m good.”
Wynen also holds the keys to his success, with one first place already. A first or second would get him in.
U.S. Snowboard Team Freestyle Coach Pete del Guidice agrees that Czeschin has a great opportunity. “Tommy is really consistent,” he says. “He’s had his bad luck, but now he’s the candidate to knock down. If he gets a second or third, he’s good.”
del Guidice thinks others are coming on strong as well. “The guys who are peaking will have the best chance. Keir and J.J. have really come alive. And Andy is also doing really well. But some of these guys aren’t super consistent. Keir doesn’t ride enough pipe, but we’ve been working hard with him and he’s doing well now.”
Dillon definitely has an outside chance. He has a second place from yesterday, and also two sixth places. A win would get him in for sure, and another second would make it close. With his third yesterday, J.J. is way outside, like Richards who has one fourth place so far. If either wins the final event, they’ll be in a good position to get named to the fourth spot.
Finch and Shaun White have scored consistently, but just need a first place to take it. Finch has a second, third, and fourth as his best results so far, and White has a third, fourth, and fourth.
But one rider, in particular, isn’t too psyched on the whole selection process. “The selection should be just like other countries’,” says Kass, who would have a spot if he scores a first or second place on Sunday. “Whoever earned the quota spots last season should be the ones to go to the Olympics, like me, Ross, and the others. Now I have to fight for a spot and worry about it all year long.”
Then Kass slips into an irreverent attitude saying why he’s even at the contest at all: “I’m just here for the beers and bitches.” Then he gets competitive again. “I’m just going to sit at the bottom of the pipe and jinx the other guys. I’ve got several voodoo dolls at home.”
And wouldn’t you know it, the one guy who’s already gotten a spot on the team, Ross Powers, still plans on competing in the final event and could play the role of spoiler. “It’ll be weird if someone asks me to sit down or to beat someone. But I’m going for the win. There’s 10,000 dollars up for grabs.” Easy for Powers to say because he’s already got the spot on the team, but for the rest the pressure is quickly mounting. It’ll all be over Sunday afternoon, though.
Oh yeah, on the women’s side it’s much more cut and dried.
There are three spots total, and both Shannon Dunn and Kelly Clark have earned one each. So it all comes down to who does better on Sunday: Tricia Byrnes or Gretchen Bleiler. Talk about pressure.
Look on later this weekend for the final results.