Shaun White’s slopestyle win in Mammoth proves meaningful

Shaun White topped Sage Kotsenburg (left) and Kyle Mack (right) en route to his slopestyle win on Thursday.

Shaun White topped Sage Kotsenburg (left) and Kyle Mack (right) en route to his slopestyle win in Qualifier No. 4 on Thursday.

Two-time Olympic halfpipe champion Shaun White secured his spot on the inaugural U.S. Olympic snowboard slopestyle team Thursday at the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, held at California's Mammoth Mountain. Two of the three remaining Olympic slopestyle qualifying events—there are five in total—were run, bringing America one step closer to naming its 2014 team heading to Sochi, Russia, in a few short weeks.

Shaun White was having doubts about his slopestyle campaign after taking a rough tumble in Thursday's qualifier. But he redeemed himself on the next run to take the win. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Shaun White was having doubts about his slopestyle campaign after taking a couple of rough tumbles in Thursday’s earlier qualifier. But he redeemed himself in Qualifier No. 4 to take the win. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The pressure is on for all the U.S. riders, but especially White, who is trying to medal in both halfpipe and slopestyle at the Games. White did indeed clinch his slopestyle spot Thursday, but it was no easy task. A rider known for near perfection every time he steps on a board, he was caught off guard by a series of hard slams in the first qualifier.

"I was pretty messed up this morning," White told GrindTV. "I just didn't see that [crash] coming. I haven't taken a hit like that in a long time and was almost thinking about just calling the whole event [off]." But after an hour break to refuel and refresh, White stepped back onto the course and on top of the podium, landing one of the almost-flawless runs we've come to expect from him.

The rest of the men's slopestyle team remains up in the air, as new talent—such as Ryan Stassel, who won Qualifier No. 3, and 15-year-old Kyle Mack, who took third in the second event of the day—continues to rear its head. Favorites Sage Kotsenburg, who took second in both qualifiers, and Chas Guldemond, who was leading the charge heading into this event, are still looking good to make the team, but with one more qualifier scheduled for Saturday, it's still anyone's game.

On the women's side, gold-medal favorite Jamie Anderson effortlessly secured her spot to Sochi, winning both events on her first runs. While the rest of the women's contenders shifted around in the top spots, 16-year-old Ty Walker and Aspenite Jordie Karlinski each walked away with a second-place finish; Jessika Jenson and Karly Shorr nabbed a pair of thirds. Expect more jockeying for Olympic position in the final slopestyle qualifier Saturday afternoon.

U.S. Olympic Team qualification continues at Mammoth on Friday with a halfpipe doubleheader beginning at 9:30 a.m. local time and will be webcast live on www.ussnowboarding.com. The official 2014 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team will be named this Sunday afternoon after the conclusion of the final halfpipe event.

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