Olympians Clark and Gold walk away with halfpipe wins at Copper US Grand Prix
If one snowboarder could have claimed all three halfpipe podium spots in Saturday’s Sprint U.S. Grand Prix finals, four-time Olympian and defending X Games gold medalist Kelly Clark would have done it — throwing down three finals runs that each bested the rest of the women’s field at Copper Mountain over the weekend.
The three-time Olympic medalist showed why she is snowboarding’s most decorated athlete, starting her season with a win at the first of three U.S. Grand Prix stops. Steamboat Springs native Taylor Gold claimed the top spot for the men with an impressive third run that jumped the Sochi Olympian up from eighth to first, making for back-to-back wins for both riders at the event.
“I love competition settings,” Clark said after the event. “Even in victory laps, I’m always trying to push myself.”
As the last to drop for the women, the 31-year-old could have taken it easy, having scored a 91.75 and a 92.5 in her first two runs, but that just isn’t her style. She followed them up with an 87.70 in her final run.
“I was really happy with how I rode today,” she said. “This is definitely the strongest start I’ve had, most confident I’ve been, the most consistent my riding has been.”
And with only five days back in the halfpipe since last July, she said she feels good heading into next week’s Dew Tour at Breckenridge.
“I’ve literally had less time than ever,” she said of her limited training. Despite that, she added, “I’m excited for where my snowboarding is at.”
A GOLDEN FINISH
Gold capped a thrilling final round of the men’s competition, scoring a 96.75 as the second-to-last to drop.
He had failed to score higher than 60.50 in each of his previous runs.
“I feel unbelievable,” Gold said after the win. “I wasn’t expecting anything coming in, definitely cool to come away with a win.”
Three riders ahead of Gold was China’s Yiwei Zhang, who looked like he might have the competition wrapped up after marking a 95.00 on his final drop.
Gold said he was struggling linking tricks for the run he had in mind which include frontside 1260.
“I was having trouble figuring out how it was going to work,” he said. “I’m stoked I was able to land that run when it counted.”
He added that he was increasingly comfortable after each run. “I actually found that I had less stress each run. The first run I was super nervous.”
He knocked his Sochi teammate Greg Bretz off the podium in the process. Zhang took second, followed by American Ben Ferguson, who was unable to top Gold’s score as the last rider to drop.
On the women’s side, Gold’s sister Arielle finished second behind Clark for the second year in a row; their Olympic teammate Hannah Teter was third to complete the U.S. sweep.
“I’m really happy with how I started the season off,” Arielle Gold said. “I definitely wanted to come into it just riding really well and I think I did that.”
The Copper event was a confidence builder after her trip to Sochi ended with a dislocated shoulder.
“I’m stoked,” Taylor Gold said of his sister’s performance. “She’s been working hard all summer.”
Arielle was equally proud of her brother, rushing to hug him after his run.
“My brother has a way of landing these runs that are pretty much mind-boggling,” she said of Taylor’s final run. “It’s awesome to have us both come out of the gates strong. Hopefully it will continue the rest of the season.”
The Dew Tour gets underway Wednesday morning, Dec. 10, with women’s snowboard and freeski qualifiers.
Athletes will have a few days to practice ahead of the five-day competition.
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