Taylor Gold, seen here at Copper Mountain, and the nation’s top snowboarding athletes continue the fight for Olympic team spots Jan. 6-11 when the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix sets up shop at Breckenridge. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Snowboarding)
BRECKENRIDGE, CO (Jan. 6) – The nation’s top snowboarding athletes continue the fight for Olympic team spots Jan. 6-11 when the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix sets up shop at Breckenridge for halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. The event serves as the third of five Olympic qualification events as well as the second stop of the 18-year-old Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Tour. Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) is the only athlete that has mathematically secured a spot on the team, bringing the competition down to the wire for a heavy hitting core of athletes. NBC and NBCSN will feature television coverage of the events.
The nation’s top snowboarding athletes continue the fight for Olympic team spots Jan. 6-11 when the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix sets up shop at Breckenridge for halfpipe and slopestyle competitions.
The event serves as the third of five Olympic qualification events as well as the second stop of the 18-year-old Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Tour.
Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) is the only athlete that has mathematically secured a spot on the team, bringing the competition down to the wire for heavy hitters like Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA), Scotty Lago (Seabrook, NH) and Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO), who are fighting to keep their spots from a progressive rookie squad led by Taylor Gold (Steamboat Springs, CO), Ty Walker (Stowe, VT) and Ben Ferguson (Bend, OR).
Selection to the Olympic snowboarding team will be made from athletes who have a top-four finish against the entire field in the selection events. Those athletes will be ranked with their best two of five qualifying events using World Cup scoring (1,000 point scale) comparing only USA athletes.
In addition to a spot on the Olympic team, athletes will be competing for a total tour prize purse of $514,000, with the Breckenridge Grand Prix winners receiving $10,000, while the runners up in each men’s and women’s event will receive a total of $11,000 in prize money.
At the end of the tour, each overall winner will be awarded an additional $10,000. In the 18 years of the tour, over $7 million has been awarded to athletes.
The tour stop for the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix was moved from Northstar Resort in California to Breckenridge because of its competition-ready venue already in place.
The region was not getting sufficiently cold temperatures for snowmaking teams to ensure the huge production of snow required for building a competition halfpipe and slopestyle venue.
Breckenridge recently played host to the opening qualifier at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships, so the athletes will be familiar with the venue and ready to go big for a chance at Sochi.
NBC and NBCSN will feature television coverage of the events. See below for a full television schedule.
Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) has a first and second in the first two Olympic qualifiers, winning the Breckenridge Dew Tour stop. He hasn’t locked in a spot yet but is the closest thus far.
Taylor Gold, the Colorado rookie, is coming off a win at the Copper Grand Prix and third place at the Breckenridge Grand Prix, riding strong with nothing loose and leading the new breed of rookie riders this season.
Shaun White took a top-four in halfpipe at the Dew Tour, but he needs a win at the Breck Grand Prix to get him into the top few spots. Expect to see him put down his best possible runs.
Ben Ferguson, a virtual unknown up until the first two Olympic qualifiers, has impressed the crowds at both the Breckenridge Dew Tour and the Copper Grand Prix, landing a third at Copper. Look for him to keep the rookie momentum going.
Scotty Lago, bronze medalist in the 2010 Olympics, is one of the veteran riders who will be throwing down to nab podium spots at these next three events.
Kelly Clark is the only athlete to have mathematically clinched her Sochi spot. With the pressure off, she’ll be looking to step up her game and progress the sport past her normally high level of riding.
Arielle Gold (Steamboat Springs, CO) is sitting in the number two spot for the women’s halfpipe team, but with three events remaining and a strong American women’s field, she has by no means claimed her ticket to Sochi.
Gretchen Bleiler is sitting in the third place for the women and will be looking to hold tight to that spot in the next three events.
It’s anyone’s game for the rest of the women’s field, including veterans Elena Hight (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) and Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT), who haven’t secured a top-four finish at the first two events and will be out in the halfpipe with plenty of motivation to take the podium.
In slopestyle, the men’s team has been consistently finishing shy of the podium, with the exception of Shaun White, who nabbed a third place finish at the last Copper Grand Prix. White has had a few weeks to heal up after he aggravated his ankle at the Dew Tour, so he will be looking to take a much-needed win in slopestyle at Breck.
Chas Guldemond (Reno, NV) is currently leading the Americans in the points, but has yet to step onto the podium at either of the first two events. He needs to finish in fifth place or better to secure a Sochi spot.
In third place, young gun Sage Kotsenburg (Park City, UT) needs to land some runs to stay in the contention.
Jamie Anderson (South Lake Tahoe, CA) is the top American woman with a win at the Dew Tour, but will be looking for redemption after she fell in both runs at the Copper Grand Prix.
Volatile rookie Ty Walker sits right behind Anderson after securing a top-four at Copper.
Jordie Karlinski (Snowmass Village, CO) and Jessika Jenson (Rigby, ID) are all still in the running and will be battling for a top-four finish to meet Olympic qualification criteria.