Going for the Games
Call Andy Finch dogged, but the 24-year-old snowboarder from Truckee has no intention to downsize his charge-harder-and-boost-higher-than-anyone routine entering the final two Olympic halfpipe qualifiers.
“I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I’m gonna try to have fun and go bigger than everyone,” said Finch, who has won his share of halfpipe competitions abiding by that big-air game plan ” not by playing it safe.
Come Friday and Saturday at Mountain Creek, N.J., Finch will be competing head-to-head against the nation’s top riders for the three remaining spots on the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe Team.
The team is selected by averaging each snowboarder’s two highest scores over the five-event qualifying series. After three of the events ” two were held at Breckenridge, Colo and one at Mount Bachelor, Ore. ” Finch sits in sixth place, with two fourth-place finishes and 1,000 points.
Shaun White, who has two first-place finishes and 2,000 points, is the only rider who has clinched a spot on the team. Between White and Finch in the standings are Mason Aguirre (1,600 points), Danny Davis (1,200), Ross Powers (1,090) and Scott Lago (1,050). Danny Kass, of Mammoth, is in seventh place behind Finch, with 900 points.
A first- or second-place finish at one of the two contests this weekend should get Finch in, he thinks, and a third-place finish might work.
“I know if I can put together one of my best runs, they will put me on the podium,” Finch said.
“They” are the judges. There are usually four or five of them, Finch said, and their collective, and subjective, opinion is what ultimately decides the team.
Most of the riders who are in the running for the Olympic team score points with the judges by pulling clean tricks, albeit not very high above the halfpipe, Finch said. In contrast, Finch always goes big, he said, no matter what.
“Shaun (White) is very smooth and has good style. He pumps out tricks like a machine,” Finch said … “I don’t always land tricks, but I’m always pushing myself.”
Even with knowledge of White’s recipe for success, Finch said he’ll continue to push himself by going huge, as usual. In doing so, however, he usually gets in only five hits before reaching the bottom of the superpipe, as opposed to the six hits most competitors get in. Some riders are able to pull off seven before running out of pipe, he said.
But Finch is dogged, and in living up to the nickname Pitbull, he’s approaching this weekend’s competitions with the same tenacity as he does every other event.
Assuming he puts together a stellar run, with more air than anyone but with one less trick, his Olympic birth is at the judges’ discretion.
Asked if nerves will play a role in the qualifiers, or in the Olympics if he makes the cut, Finch said, “No, not at all. I promised myself I wouldn’t do that. I just want to enjoy the experience.”
No matter how he fares, Finch is already a go for the Winter X-Games, to be held in Aspen, Colo. Jan. 28 through 31.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.