U.S. snowboarders throw down in Grand Prix halfpipe qualifier at Copper | SummitDaily.com

U.S. snowboarders throw down in Grand Prix halfpipe qualifier at Copper

Shiying Huang airs out of Copper Mountain's superpipe during Thursday's qualifying round of the U.S. Grand Prix. Ski finals are set for Friday followed by snowboard finals Saturday.
Tripp Fay / Copper Mountain Resort |

American halfpipe riders dominated a strong international field during the halfpipe snowboarding qualifiers at the 2014-15 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Thursday.

Americans Ben Ferguson, Greg Bretz and Taylor Gold picked up right where they left off last season, throwing down huge runs. Ferguson, who narrowly missed an Olympic start last year in Sochi, Russia, landed the biggest run of the day with a double crippler and a backside 900 on the first two hits, followed by a cab double 1080 at the bottom for the highest scoring run of the day at 94.5.

Olympians Bretz and Gold finished second and third overall. Gold, a Steamboat Springs native, won the first heat on a run that included a frontside double 1080 to cab 1080 combo.

“I’m definitely stoked to be in finals. I didn’t land anything in practice so it was a big relief to land a run,” Gold said. “The pipe is sick and I’m looking forward to Saturday. Three-run finals are always better; it takes the pressure off.”

Jake Pates, a 15-year-old rookie rider from Eagle, also put down an impressive run with back-to-back 1080s, earning him his first Grand Prix finals appearance.

In the women’s field, four-time U.S. Olympic team member and three-time medalist Kelly Clark led the contest in run No. 1 with her signature high-amplitude airs and a pair of back-to-back 720s.

“It was great to come out to the first event and do so well in qualifiers,” Clark said after her runs. “It’s always an adjustment to get back into competition mode, so I’m very happy I put down two runs and made it to finals.”

Taylor Gold’s sister, Arielle, fellow Olympic teammate Hannah Teter and Spain’s Queralt Castellet all landed 900s in their runs, but still trailed Clark’s lead. Olympians Elena Hight, of the U.S., and Xuetong Cai, of China, also made Saturday’s finals. U.S. Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington, who was expected to participate, was absent from the women’s field.

Freeskiers will take to Copper’s halfpipe Friday for the men’s and women’s finals. Ten men and six women will battle it out in a three-run final starting at 12:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed on NBC Sports LiveExtra tomorrow at 2:30 EST and broadcast on NBC Sports Network Saturday at 5 p.m. EST.

Snowboard finals will be held Saturday.

Tricia Byrnes, spokeswoman for the U.S. Freeski and Snowboard teams, contributed to this report.

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