Wise, Bowman clinch at Olympic qualifier
While snowboarding remains a question mark, the U.S. freeskiing Olympic team picture got a little clearer Sunday with the conclusion of the U.S. Grand Prix at Breckenridge. Halfpipe skiers David Wise of Reno and Maddie Bowman of South Lake Tahoe both punched their tickets to February’s winter games in Sochi, Russia, after claiming top honors in the men’s and women’s superpipe finals.
Weather was a factor all weekend as all other halfpipe and slopestyle finals were canceled. A jury of Grand Prix organizers decided to nullify snowboarding competition results altogether, while freesking slopestyle qualifiers were used as finals, based on International Ski Federation (FIS) rule.
No rule exists for snowboarding, making a jury decision necessary. The Grand Prix stop originally was to be held at Northstar California Resort, but due to low snow conditions the event was moved to Breckenridge.
“I’m so happy we got the event off,” Wise said of the skiing superpipe finals. “It’s never a good thing to turn a qualifier into a final, which was potentially going to happen.”
As for the Olympics, he said, “I have a spot clinched, I’m going. It feels really good. The pressure’s off. I don’t have to worry about any more podiums. I can just focus on my skiing and improving it.”
For Bowman, it hadn’t quite sunk in.
“I wish everyone had better conditions and we could really see the full potential of everyone, but I’m definitely stoked and I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” she said. “I’ve never been in this position. It’s our first Olympics, but it’s pretty exciting. I’ve just been trying to take each competition day by day, not looking at the big ‘O,’ but now that I know I get to compete there so I’m pretty excited.”
The two joined slopestyle freeskier Nick Goepper and three-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark as the only athletes to have locked spots on the freeskiing and snowboarding Olympic teams, headed into the final two qualifying events. All four have two podium appearances as the highest American finishers, making them unbeatable in points standings.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboarding selection committee will look at competitors’ top two results from the five U.S. selection events. A number of contenders remain in the running in each sport’s two disciplines.
Shaun White — who also hopes to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe — is close to qualifying, but like the others will need another podium spot in one of the two remaining competitions to lock his position in each event.
Breckenridge locals Keri Herman and Bobby Brown kept themselves in skier slopestyle contention when their first place finishes in qualifiers became final results Friday.
Both remaining Olympic team selection events for skiing and snowboarding are U.S.-only competitions. So while a podium position in one of the events will help, a top finish may be necessary.
Snowboarders head to Mammoth Mountain for back-to-back competitions Jan. 14-19. Freeskiers will close the selection process in Park City, Utah, also with back-to-back events, Jan. 17-18.
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