Sixteen nominated to the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team |

Sixteen nominated to the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team

AP Photo Gretchen Bleiler of Snowmass Village, Colo.soars at the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix Halfpipe Finals in Vernon, N.J., on Sunday. Bleiler, who won four out of the season's five Grand Prix halfpipe contests, finished first.

MOUNTAIN CREEK, N.J. – Teen halfpipe superstar Shaun White (Carlsbad, Calif.) and snowboardcross world champions Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton, Vt.) and Seth Wescott (Kingfield, Maine) lead a 16-member U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team announced Sunday, subject to U.S. Olympic Committee approval, following the last Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix qualifier.Steve Fisher and Chad Otterstrom of Breckenridge were both left off of this year’s Olympic team. Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, said the team – introduced following completion of the final Grand Prix halfpipe contest at Mountain Creek resort – will include nine men and seven women.Three riders competed in previous Olympics (defending 2002 halfpipe gold medalist Kelly Clark, 2002 Olympic silver medalist Danny Kass and Rosey Fletcher, the first American named to the first U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team in 1998). All Olympic nominations submitted by the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding are subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee. White, 19, swept the five Grand Prix halfpipe contests and has energized his sport in recent seasons with his creativity and dynamic rides. Jacobellis and Wescott were boardercross gold medalists at the 2005 World Championships. Kass and Finch each clinched Olympic Team spots with second-place finishes in Mountain Creek on Friday night and Sunday, respectively. White and Bleiler, who led men’s and women’s qualifiers, narrowly missed selection in 2002.

“Adding snowboardcross brings an incredibly exciting event to the Olympics, and fortunately, we have many of the best riders the world,” said U.S. Snowboarding program director Jeremy Forster. “This is certainly not a one-dimensional Olympic Team. We have a huge legacy to live up to from our success in 2002, but I think everyone will see next month that this team is certainly as strong, maybe even stronger.”Shaun Palmer (South Lake Tahoe, Calif.) would have qualified for the Olympic team with a second place in a World Cup, but suffered an injury earlier this month in training in Europe that will keep him out of competition. Most riders will head to Aspen, Colo., this week for the Winter X Games before heading to Torino in early February for a pre-Olympic training camp.White and Bleiler dominate Snowboard Grand PrixMOUNTAIN CREEK, N.J. – Shaun White and Gretchen Bleiler won consecutive Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix halfpipe contests Sunday at Mountain Creek, New Jersey.White became the first rider in the ten-year history of the Grand Prix to win every halfpipe contest of the season, while Bleiler took four out of five with Hannah Teter upsetting the sweep at the opening event in Breckenridge. In addition, they both won a new Chevrolet Colorado truck as the overall champions of the tour.

White needed just his first run to pick up the victory as he earned a score of 45.5.”This whole tour, I’ve been doing a pretty good first run and I didn’t need the second run,” said White. “The pipe was kind of intimidating today. It was kind of icy, but it got way better (later on).White’s run spun a few heads on the pipe deck, not a shock considering all of the spinning he did. He started off his run with a lofty indy and went into a corked backside 900 to a frontside 1080 to a Cab 1080 into a frontside 900 before finishing with a McTwist.”I just want to get better and better and I’ve been working on some new stuff,” said White.One of the most stylish, skate-influenced riders in the world, White got in some cross training while at Mountain Creek.”I ollied over a rock outside of the condo,” he claimed.It was Finch’s best placing of the year. His run featured a backside crail, a frontside 1080, a Cab 720, a frontside 900, and a Michaelchuk.

“I started the season pretty much not even thinking of the Olympics,” said Finch, originally from Fresno, California and now residing in Truckee, California. “I started pushing myself at Breckenridge (in December) and it took that event to realize that I needed to get my game on.”For Fisher, it was his first Grand Prix podium of the season.Bleiler dropped in to a crippler, then a backside 540, a frontside 900, a method, and a frontside 540.”Today I feel like I rode my absolute best,” said Bleiler. “It’s the first time all year I’ve thrown a nine on my third hit. I’m also working on a Michaelchuk.”Clark, the 2002 Olympic gold medal winner in pipe, stomped everything including a frontside 720 and backside and frontside 540s.”The pipe was the best it’s been yet and I rode the best I’ve ridden all season,” said Clark. “My backside fives have been giving me problems all year but I was able to put it together. I kept it clean and maintained my style and it all came together.”The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, but high winds forced a postponement.”The rescheduling threw us all off,” said U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe coach Bud Keene. “Everyone was a bit groggy this morning, but the riding was unbelievable. Gretchen rode as well as I’ve seen all year, throwing with grace and precision. This Grand Prix season has really pushed every U.S. rider. It’s absolutely been the best riding I’ve seen in any contest.”

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