Fisher, Teter lead the way into pipe finals
BRECKENRIDGE ” Breckenridge’s Steve Fisher stormed into the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix on Saturday on his home pipe, posting the highest score in the qualifying round to advance to today’s finals.
Fisher put together a masterful second run that included a frontside 900 and a frontside cork 720 to pull 45.90 points out of the five judges watching at the base of the run.
“It was pretty much the same run I won the Triple Crown with last year,” the reigning Winter X Games superpipe champion said, referring to his win at the Breck Vans event.
Fisher is one of 16 finalists that advanced out of nearly five hours of qualifying on Saturday. And although some might call him the favorite, he’s not going that far.
“There’s a lot of really good riders,” Fisher said. “It’s pretty much anyone’s game, but I feel pretty good so we’ll see what happens.”
Germany’s Jan Michaelis finished second in qualifying, right on Fisher’s heels with a score of 45.70. American Travis Rice rounded out the preliminary podium, finishing third at 44.70.
Teenage snowboarding phenom Shaun White was conspicuously missing from the first major snowboarding competition of the season on U.S. soil. White was slated to start the event, but backed out because he was not feeling well.
In the women’s qualifying, Fisher’s fellow X Games superpipe champion, Hannah Teter, nearly matched Fisher’s score, posting a Saturday-best 45.80 in her first run.
Meanwhile, Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler made a triumphant return to competition by finishing second with a score of 43.20. Bleiler missed the entire 2003-2004 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a practice run at the 2003 Vans Triple Crown slopestyle at Breckenridge last year.
“It’s definitely good to be back,” she said. “I was riding the best I ever had when I had that accident last year, and I feel like I still have all of that.”
Bleiler even went so far as to say she didn’t have the strongest run she thinks she’s capable of, despite throwing a Crippler 540 straight into a backside 540 and then a frontside 540.
“It’s the first contest of the year, and I think everyone was nervous and it showed,” she said.
Bleiler said it was somewhat unnerving making her return to competitive snowboarding in the same terrain park where her season ended last year.
“It was definitely a mental game,” she said. “It took a full day to get used to it again and to remember what it’s like to compete.”
Teter and Bleiler are among eight women who advanced on Saturday, including Copper Mountain Freeride Team member Clair Bidez, who finished sixth with a score of 37.20.
Like Bleiler, Bidez didn’t feel as comfortable as she would have liked for the season opener.
“I wasn’t riding my best,” she said. “I was having problems with my 720s, which are usually pretty stock for me. But I had fun and I’m happy to be in the finals.”
Despite the mild opening day jitters experienced by some of the snowboarders, competitors universally agreed that Breckenridge’s superpipe is in prime form for the competition.
“The pipe is impeccable ” it’s perfect,” said Jackson Hole’s Rob Kingwell. “Breckenridge put together an awesome competition and they always do.”
Kingwell finished 34th with a score of 30.00, and said he was amazed by the quality of the runs being put together by everyone so early in the season.
“People are stepping it up from the get-go,” he said. “It’s cool to see how much better everyone gets every year.”
More than $40,000 will be doled out after today’s finals, including a $10,000 grand prize for the winner of both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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