The wild Olympics qualification ride for Team USA’s snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle athletes has finally ended. The USSA federation announced on Sunday the selection of 13 snowboarders for the Sochi Olympics. These nominations are expected to be approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee later this month.
These athletes made the cut by competing in a series of five USSA qualification events. From the opening Dew Tour contest in mid-December, through the final pressure cooker Sprint U.S. Grand Prix finale in Mammoth Lakes, CA this weekend, all were trained on qualifying for the Sochi Olympics.
While some Olympic medalists sealed the deal once more, many rising newcomers also nabbed a spot on Team USA. This “old guard” was challenged at each of the five events by a new breed of young guns, intent on dethroning the veterans.
Heady Halfpipe Competition
Two-time Olympics medalists Shaun White, Kelly Clark, and Hannah Teter relied on their experience and composure to withstand the no-holds-barred style of their protégés who threatened to upend them. In fact, Teter was on the bubble as of the final event on Sunday – only earning the nod based on coaches’ discretion, bolstered by her last minute breakout runs this weekend. Vancouver Olympian Greg Bretz relied on his early season success to withstand late-breaking charges by such sport newcomers as Ben Ferguson and Matt Ladley.
Also nabbing spots on this “Sochi Express” Team USA train to the Olympics are siblings Arielle and Taylor Gold. In the last year, these underdogs have risen through the ranks to challenge the best the U.S. has to offer.
Because of this influx of new blood into the ranks, two other Olympics medaling boarders Gretchen Bleiler and Scotty Lago surprisingly missed the cut. Further, Vancouver Olympian and fan-favorite Louie Vito also failed to qualify.
Halfpipe Nominations - Men
Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, CA (12/19/1990)
Danny Davis, Truckee, CA (6/22/1988)
Taylor Gold, Steamboat Springs, CO (11/17/1993)
Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA (9/3/1986)
Halfpipe Nominations – Women
Kelly Clark, W. Dover, VT (7/26/1983)
Kaitlyn Farrington, Sun Valley, ID (12/18/1989)
Arielle Gold, Steamboat Springs, CO (5/4/1996)
Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT (1/27/1987)
Steady Slopestyle Competition
While halfpipe has been contested in the Winter Olympics since 1998, the newly added slopestyle has opened the door for a new breed of athlete. Progressing from their local terrain parks all the way to this inaugural Olympics showcase are five athletes.
Shaun White, who challenged himself to qualify in both events for the Olympics, led the way by taking top honors in two of the five qualifications.
"Juggling the two was out of hand. But, it is everything I could have hoped for," said White in an NBC interview.
Jamie Anderson, proving her dominance and solidifying her chances at gold in Sochi, ruled the ranks by winning four of the five events.
The other three boarders sealed the deal by finishing at the top of all American competitors in two or more competitions.
Slopestyle Nominations – Men
Sage Kotsenburg, Park City, UT (7/27/1993)
Chas Guldemond, Reno, NV (4/22/1987)
Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA (9/3/1986)
Slopestyle Nominations – Women
Jamie Anderson, S. Lake Tahoe, CA (9/13/1990)
Ty Walker, Stowe, VT (3/03/1997)
Additional slopestyle spots may soon be announced – pending additional quota spots being allocated to the United States. Female boarders Karly Shorr, Jessika Jenson, and Jordie Karlinski are on the bubble, along with males Ryan Stassel and Brandon Davis.
Check in frequently for all the latest news on Team USA and its run to the Sochi Olympics.