White, Bleiler secure Oly spots
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
On the day that Shaun White clinched his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, he may have also shown how he expects to claim gold in Vancouver.
After his impressive first run – that included two double cork 1080s – secured the win Saturday at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on Mammoth Mountain, White used his second run to unleash his latest version of the double-flipping, twisting maneuver that has the snowboard world buzzing: the double cork McTwist 1260.
“It’s been a trick that’s been messing with me for a while,” White said in a statement released by the U.S. Snowboarding Team, “but I’m excited to try to put it down in Park City and hopefully at the Games.”
White didn’t need the trick in the third of five official Olympic qualifiers Saturday, with his first-round score of 47 never truly being challenged the whole afternoon.
Louie Vito, also using the double cork, finished second to White for the second time this season. The finish, however, puts Vito in solid position for making the U.S. team headed to Vancouver in February.
Next for the men was Breckenridge rider J.J. Thomas. The Olympic bronze medalist in 2002 was a full two points behind White.
Continuing what has already been a stellar season was Summit local Zack Black, who finished fifth on Saturday. It was Black’s second top-five finish in a Grand Prix this season, and combining Saturday’s result with his third-place finish at Copper Mountain in December, Black is currently inside the cut off to make the Olympic team at only 19 years old.
Fellow Breck rider and two-time X Games champ Steve Fisher was sixth, and Copper rider Dylan Bidez was 10th.
On the women’s side, Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler officially punched her ticket to Vancouver by topping Elena Hight by less than a point. Her win, along with a second-place at Copper, guarantees that she will be one of the four American women to compete in the Olympics.
After Hight was 2006 Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter in third.
Kelly Clark, who was unbeaten on the season coming into Saturday, wound up fourth. Clark already clinched her spot on the Olympic team with a win at Mammoth on Wednesday.
Clair Bidez, Dylan Bidez’s sister, finished seventh in the women’s final.
While three riders have now clinched spots in Vancouver – White, Clark and Bleiler – the rest of the elite Americans will have to duke it out for the remaining spots in Park City Jan. 22-23 with the final two qualifiers.
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