COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. — Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White made a big leap towards Sochi on Sunday with his third-place finish at the Paul Mitchell Slopestyle at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix.
Former Tahoe resident Chas Guldemond of Reno was hoping to improve his first run score of 88.5, but he went down in his second run and placed fifth for the second time in two events. He still sits on top of the standings, but only has three more chances to secure a top-four result.
“Now that I’m sitting pretty good with my position in the U.S. I’m going to just start focusing on me and really start working on those big tricks,” Guldemond said.
White’s top-four result fulfilled the objective criteria for Olympic qualification as well as gave him the highest U.S. result so far in the five-event qualification series, putting him in a solid position going into the three remaining events.
The stacked field of international talent made for a progressive competition, especially the Norwegians, who went one-two with winner Staale Sandbech stomping an incredible cab 1440 and scoring a 97.00.
In the women’s snowboard competition, Ty Walker, 16, of Stowe, Vt., landed the top spot for the USA with her fourth-place finish Sunday.
Czech rider Sarka Pancochova took the victory and Isabel Derungs and Elena Koenz of Switzerland finished second and third.
Walker’s top-four result fulfilled her objective criteria for Olympic qualification, and her top finish over the Americans moved her up in the standings behind Jamie Anderson of Lake Tahoe, who fell during both of her runs Sunday and finished seventh.
Anderson is the only other rider that has met the top-four criteria after her victory at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships the previous weekend at Breckenridge.
Jessika Jenson of Rigby, Idaho, was the only other American rider in the final, finishing eighth.
Goepper clinches Olympic berth
Nick Goepper of Lawrenceburg, Ind., became the first skier to secure a spot on the first-ever U.S. Freeskiing Olympic team Saturday with his second-place finish in the slopestyle final at the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix presented by The North Face.
Goepper was the top American finisher behind Norway’s Andreas Haatveit, who took home the victory while Australian Russ Henshaw took third. Goepper’s two top-three finishes and two victories over the U.S. field make him mathematically untouchable going into the three remaining qualifiers.
McRae Williams of Park City, Utah., was the next highest scoring U.S. skier with an 84.20, which earned him fourth-place. He was followed by favorite Bobby Brown of Breckenridge, Colo., who finished fifth.
Williams’ finish put him in third place in the Olympic qualification standings, one spot above Tom Wallisch of Pittsburgh, who is currently ranked fourth and placed eighth in Saturday’s final.
In the women’s final, rookie Darian Stevens of Missoula, Mont., took second and the top U.S. spot at Saturday’s slopestyle final while Grete Eliassen of Salt Lake City came in third.
Dara Howell of Canada won the event, and 15-year-old rookie Maggie Voisin of Whitefish, Mont., finished fourth, boosting into the top of the Olympic qualification standings.
Stevens and Eliassen took one of two required podium finishes to qualify for the first-ever U.S. Freeskiing Olympic team. Previous leader Devin Loga did not qualify for the slopestyle final and dropped to a second-place tie with Stevens in the standings.
Saturday’s results break the competition wide open, making it anyone’s game when the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix goes to Breckenridge from Jan. 8-12.