2010 Olympics watch: Bahrke battling for spot on Olympic Freestyle Team | SierraSun.com

2010 Olympics watch: Bahrke battling for spot on Olympic Freestyle Team

U.S. Ski Team report

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. and#8212; Some athletes will be hanging on for dear life, and some will be going big to grab a last minute spot in Thursday’s final moguls qualifier before the Olympic Freestyle Team is named next Tuesday.

If Wednesday’s training on Wilderness at Whiteface Mountain is any indication, it’s going to be a rough and tumble contest at the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup.

“This course is brutal and#8212; just brutal tough,” said Freestyle Head Coach Jeff Wintersteen.

The hanging on for dear life will occur in the women’s event. World Cup champion Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) has a lock on a Team spot after winning last month’s Olympic Trials in Steamboat Springs. In the comeback story of the season, Heather McPhie (Park City, Utah) clinched her spot with a win and second at Deer Valley Resort last weekend.

Hanging on are 2002 Olympic silver medalist Shannon Bahrke of Tahoe City and Michelle Roark (Denver), who were both third in Deer Valley.

Both Bahrke and Roark are primed to make the four-person Team. But coming up from behind are Emiko Torito (Denver), who can potentially knock out Bahrke or Roark with a third. Beyond that, skiers like Shelly Robertson (Reno, Nev.) will need second or better to have a shot at the Team.

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The men’s battle is a bit more fluid. World Champion Patrick Deneen (Cle Elum, Wash.) is locked with an Olympic Trials win. Like Kearney, Deneen will be using the event more to experiment with his run. Bryon Wilson (Park City, Utah) has also clinched with a pair of seconds from opening weekend in Finland last month. And 2005 World Champion Nate Roberts (Park City, Utah), is rolling the dice that his third from Finland will hold up. After two crashes in Deer Valley, Roberts is sitting it out back home. It will take two teammates finishing first or second to knock him out.

The leading challengers for the fourth spot are Michael Morse (Duxbury, Mass.) and Jeremy Cota (Steamboat Springs, Colo.). Morse has a pair of sixths, Cota one. And there’s plenty of other challengers anxious to gain a spot on the Team with a good finish in Lake Placid.

Qualifying rounds start at 9:30 a.m. EST Thursday, with finals at 1:15 p.m. Fan can watch scoring live in qualifications and finals at http://www.fisfreestyleworldcup.com.