Hight moves into position to be a repeat Olympian
If the U.S. halfpipe rider standings remain as they are today, Elena Hight will be making a return trip to the Winter Olympics next month.
Hight strengthened her Olympic position last week at Mammoth Mountain with podium and fifth-place performances.
“I’m really stoked on that. It makes it a lot more real going into the last two contests that Vancouver is a possibility,” Hight said. “Mammoth is pretty close to home. I had lot of support there. A lot of friends came down, and it was more hanging out with friends and me being mellow the whole week. That really took the pressure off.”
The U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to send four male and four female halfpipe riders to the Winter Games. Kelly Clark and Gretchen Bleiler have wrapped up Olympic invitations for the women, while Shaun White and Louie Vito have nailed down men’s spots in Vancouver.
With two podium efforts at Mammoth, South Lake Tahoe’s Hannah Teter, the 2006 Olympic champion who is originally from Belmont, Vt., sits in third place in the women’s standings, while Hight, a 2006 Olympian, is fourth.
“The last time around I was more of an underdog, and I felt less pressure because no one expected me to do well,” said Hight, who spent most of her youth in South Lake Tahoe. “The last four years there has been so much progression in snowboarding, I think there is a lot more pressure on everyone.”
The 20-year-old Hight increased her degree of difficulty on Saturday by throwing back-to-back 900s for only the second time in a contest.
“While I was really happy with my riding on Wednesday, I didn’t place as well as I wanted to. This is the time to step up your riding and try to do some things that haven’t been done,” Hight said. “I’m pretty confident with those tricks. I have a week to get the kinks worked out, and Park City is the time to go all out.”
Two contests remain Jan. 22-23 before the Olympic teams are officially announced on Jan. 24.
“I’m looking for a podium for sure in the next two events. With that, I’d be very happy,” she said.
Hight said that even though the competition is intense to qualify for the Games, it isn’t done with disregard to friendships.
“All of the girls and guys who are basically going for the Olympics are really close friends. We travel together and have become each other’s family,” Hight said. “This pressure brings everyone together more. We are all there for each other more. I don’t know what it’d be like if all of us were enemies on the hill.”