Klug, Gorgone take lead in snowboard nationals
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BRECKENRIDGE – U.S. Snowboard Team members Chris Klug and Michelle Gorgone added to their season’s hardware collection after winning Saturday’s parallel giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Snowboard Nationals.
“I couldn’t have finished the season better than this,” said Aspen’s Klug, as he was surrounded by his cheering contingent. “This past month has been remarkable.”
Edwards’ Stacia Hookom and Ryan McDonald took second.
Klug’s recent finishes include a podium appearance in Nagano, Japan, and a World Cup podium in Italy on the hill that will host the 2006 Olympics.
“I’m really happy to finish this strong,” Klug said.
Gorgone’s win tops off a solid World Cup season – including a podium – rare for somebody racing in their rookie season.
The winners took home cash prizes from the event. The overall points leader after the two events will take home the national championship trophy.
Klug was among the leaders all day after placing in the top three during the qualifying heats. In contrast, Gorgone battled from behind to clinch the victory.
From a field of 48 men and 27 women, 16 men and 16 women were selected to compete in the finals. The finalists were seeded according to the combined times of their two qualifying runs.
Gorgone was seeded 15th in the finals bracket, which consisted of eight head-to-head heats. Each pairing of riders rode twice, once on each side of the course. The rider with the lowest combined time from those two runs advanced to the next round.
Gorgone won, narrowly edging out Hookom despite smashing her right thumb in the starting gate in the quarterfinals of the event.
The starting gate, which was being operated manually, prematurely came open. Gorgone’s hand was resting on it, and her thumb got caught.
All day, it looked as though Hookom would take the victory, riding eight flawless runs. But in the first run of the final pairing, Hookom faltered at the delay gate, giving Gorgone a one-second lead going into the second heat.
“No matter what happens, keep it moving down the hill,” Hookom said after the run.
Hookom fought back, winning the second run of the final pairing, but it wasn’t enough to cut her opponent’s lead. Gorgone won by .34 seconds.
“I was behind, and I rode as hard as I could that second run,” Hookom said. “You can’t complain when you give it your best.”
Hookom said she and Gorgone showed themselves to be the fastest riders of the day.
“It’s good that we ended up first and second,” she said.
For a while, it appeared as though Klug would be battling his friend and teammate Adam Smith to get to the finals, but a controversial decision in the second of Smith’s quarterfinal runs ended up knocking him out of contention.
As the run was starting, Canadian Justin-Claude DuMont said he heard someone yell stop, and didn’t leave the gate.
By the time race officials figured out what happened, Smith was already halfway down the course.
“If somebody is standing on the side of the course and yells ‘Stop,’ do you stop,” asked a frustrated Smith as he came off the course.
Smith said the participants and officials at the top of the course were arguing about the decision to rerun the heat, but in the end officials decided that was the only fair solution to the matter.
In the second heat, DuMont beat a tired Smith by .2 seconds.
“It makes me want to stick around for tomorrow,” said Smith, referring to today’s slalom event. Smith won the national slalom championship last year at Aspen.
The two winning riders Saturday each competed in 10 separate heats, two during qualification and eight during the final bracket-style championship.
By the end of the finals, the course, which had been baking under the bright sun on a 60-degree bluebird day, was very soft and slushy.
“It was more like wakeboarding than snowboarding today,” Klug said.
The heat and the course condition took its toll on all the riders.
“Stamina is a big deal,” said Warren Klug, Chris’ father. “They work hard to stay in good shape. It’s not like the old days when things other than racing went on.”
Most of the riders will participate in the final event tomorrow, a single slalom competition.
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