PARK CITY, Utah — Angeli VanLaanen took a three-year hiatus from the ski halfpipe while she battled Lyme disease. Her impressive comeback now includes a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
She hopes a medal in Sochi will complete the journey.
“Oh, I’m on top of the world right now. (I) just went out, skied my best, it felt amazing to land my run, and it’s a dream come true to be on the team going to Sochi,” said VanLaanen, who won the ski halfpipe Saturday at the U.S. Grand Prix, the final Olympic qualifying event.
The podium finish earned her one of the Olympic team berths that were up for grabs in ski halfpipe and slopestyle during the two-day competition in Park City.
Nick Goepper had his slopestyle spot sewn up before the final qualifiers and Bobby Brown clinched his place on the team on Friday with a second place finish. Gus Kenworthy is looking to participate in Sochi in both events, the slopestyle is a given and there is still an outside chance he can be selected for the halfpipe as a discretionary selection.
Kenworthy believes the toughest battle has already been fought.
“There are so many guys who are so talented in both slopestyle and halfpipe from the U.S. that to earn a spot here, you’re competing against all of the best,” he said. “In Russia you’re only competing against three other guys from the U.S. because we can only send four.”
While Kenworthy awaits his fate in the halfpipe, Lyman Currier, Aaron Blunck, and David Wise all qualified for the event. Saturday’s qualifier was heated down to the final run.
“It’s crazy nerve-racking. I mean, it was between like twenty points between fifth, fourth, and third. It was insane,” said Currier, who was still in shock over finishing first.
Like Kenworthy, Devin Logan is awaiting word whether or not she will compete in both events after already qualifying for Sochi on Friday in slopestyle.
“It would mean everything to me. I’ve been working all my life for halfpipe and slopestyle and getting to (compete in both) would be amazing, so—cross my fingers, (today’s result) definitely helps, so we’ll see what the points come out to be,” Logan said.
Only one other woman, Keri Herman, has a spot on the slopestyle team. Another discretionary selection could be added next week.
“It was great coming out here and skiing with the best girls around the world. I ended up in second and I’m stoked, I made it on the Olympic team officially,” said Herman.
Maddie Bowman, Brita Sigourney, and VanLaanen, will all represent the United States in the halfpipe. The event was filled with little drama on Saturday as Bowman and Sigourney already had claimed two spots.
“It was nice being in the start gate thinking, ‘Well, in a few weeks I’m going to be here, but in Russia,’ so I definitely tried to put that in my head so that maybe I’ll be a little more prepared when I get to Sochi,” Sigourney said.
VanLaanen stole the spotlight.
“It means the world to me to be a part of this inaugural team going to Sochi for the first Olympics that we’re included in. So many people have put so much into making this sport get to this level where we’re included. So, it’s an honor,” she said.
Sochi will be the first time that either event has been included in the Olympics.