Gravity Games odyssey is our story of 2005 |

Gravity Games odyssey is our story of 2005

Devon O'Neilsummit daily news

Summit Daily file photo/Reid Williams The Winter Gravity Games came to Copper Mountain, went well, then left an odd string of events in its wake.

The Winter Gravity Games. For a time, the mere mention of the event was enough to snatch the attention of most every resident in the county. If you didn’t care about the competitions themselves, you cared about the financial impact, or the parking, or the mass influx – or, in the case of at least a few, the quickest way out of town for that frenzied spell in early March. When it finally did arrive, the event brought with it some of the top competitors in winter action sports. Tanner Hall and Shaun White opted to stay away, but they were among a minority of big names who chose thusly. The reason: the money. The Outdoor Life Network, which bought the Gravity Games in 2004 and revamped the winter version at Copper Mountain, put together a total prize purse of nearly $400,000 for the 11 competitions. Breckenridge snowboarding veteran Chad Otterstrom was one who capitalized; he took home $26,000 in a single incredible day.After the successful games passed, oddly, Copper and OLN engaged in a sort of he said/she said exchange over whether the event would return to Copper in 2006. A Copper official said the resort had secured a two-year contract; OLN’s people said nothing had been decided.Then, in an even more unexpected twist, OLN decided to take this year off from putting on the third-ever Winter Gravity Games. Meantime, Copper moved its superpipe down to the Center Village base area, a much-publicized request made by athletes during the Games in March. Resort officials later said the move had nothing to do with the Gravity Games.We don’t know what the future holds in this odyssey; whether the event will return to Copper or even if it will ever be held again. What we do know is that due to everything involved, it trumped all other issues we covered this year. And for that reason, it is the Summit Daily News’ sports story of 2005.

2. Katie Uhlaender makes U.S. Olympic team in skeleton. Uhlaender, 21, of Breckenridge only took up the sport – which requires athletes to schuss down luge tracks headfirst on metal sleds – three years ago. But already she has won three national championships, and is the lone American woman to have qualified for the 2006 Winter Games, when the second-ever Olympic women’s skeleton competition will be held. She began the season as a darkhorse to qualify for February’s Games, then promptly finished third in two straight World Cup races. Now she’s a medal favorite.3. Jake Fiala retires. Fiala, 30, an alpine speed specialist from Frisco who spent a decade on the U.S. Ski Team, called it quits last winter in the middle of a frustrating final season on the World Cup circuit. He competed in three world championships and the 2002 Olympics, and was the 1999 national super G champion. His best World Cup finish came at Beaver Creek in 2004, when he took 13th in the downhill. He is now a local real estate agent.4. Shaun White sweeps Breck Grand Prix, qualifies for Olympics. Formerly “Future Boy,” the floppy red-haired White, 19, is now known as “The Flying Tomato.” He lived up to his billing as the top pipe rider in the world by dominating the Grand Prix events at Breckenridge two weeks ago. His two victories guaranteed him a spot on the U.S. team at the 2006 Games, where he will be the gold medal favorite. He is the only American rider to have qualified for Turin.(tie) 5. Heather McPhie makes U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. McPhie, 21, moved to Breckenridge a little more than a year ago to train under moguls guru John Dowling with Team Summit. The Bozeman, Mont., native had come agonizingly close to qualifying for the national team previously, but she made the cut last winter by winning the NorAm Cup title. She is one of five current U.S. Ski Team moguls competitors who hail from the Team Summit/Team Breckenridge pipeline.(tie) 5. Brittany Perkins leads Summit High girls skiers to the school’s 31st state championship, at home. Skiing as the favorite and fueled by a sibling rivalry unto itself in this county, Perkins, a junior, won the freestyle and classic titles on consecutive days at the Gold Run Nordic Center. She defended her freestyle crown of the previous year, and led the Tiger girls to a runaway championship, their second straight. It was the school’s 31st state ski title overall and fourth in three years, two each for the boys and girls.The rest of the top 10:

7. Summit High’s Whitney Anderson wins her fourth and fifth distance-running state championships in May (the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs), then takes second at junior nationals and third at the Junior Pan Am Games in the 5,000 meters. In the fall she earned ACC Freshman of the Year honors while running cross country at Duke.8. Blue River resident Josh Tostado breaks more records while defending his crown at the famously brutal Montezuma’s Revenge 24-hour mountain bike race. Tostado also won the inaugural Breckenridge 100 race this summer.9. Danelle Ballengee leaves Nike ACG-Balance Bar. Due to what she said were unbearable relationships with her three male teammates, Ballengee walked away from the most successful adventure racing team in the world early this year. She instead spent the season racing with a variety of teams.10. The Summit High girls basketball team advances to the Sweet 16 of the state tournament. Led by first-year head coach Jeff Neal and star senior Shannon Buhler, the youthful Tigers fell two games short of the Final Four.Honorable mention:- Chad Otterstrom is named Transworld SNOWboarding’s male rider of the year.

– The Governor’s Cup Nordic ski event dissolves after 29 years.- Summit High’s football team finishes 7-3 and attempts to rejoin the 3A Metro League after two seasons as an independent.- The SHS girls cross country team returns to the state meet, the program’s second state berth in history.- Dylan Olchin sweeps Summit Trail Running Series, topping a group that some say is the county’s deepest distance-running field in 30 years.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at