Hight returning to Winter Games
PARK CITY, Utah – Elena Hight has earned another shot at a gold medal.
The South Shore halfpipe rider was part of the 18-member 2010 U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team announced by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association on Monday. Twelve of the spots were consumed by men’s and women’s halfpipe riders and men’s boardercross competitors.
“To say the least, I’m very excited. It’s a dream come true,” Hight said on Tuesday while heading for the Winter X Games. “I found out for sure on Saturday at the last Grand Prix because I knew what spot I was sitting in and what needed to happen.”
South Lake Tahoe snowboarding pioneer Shaun Palmer’s quest to participate in the Olympic Games at age 41 was denied when teammate Nick Baumgartner was awarded the final boardercross spot.
Hight, who was sixth at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, finished fourth in the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix standings with a best result of runner-up at Mammoth. The 20-year-old has been a consistent performer over the past several weeks with four top-five Grand Prix results and a Winter Dew Tour victory.
“I had a rough start to the season, but after Christmas I started to get it together again,” she said. “Hopefully I can keep the momentum going into Vancouver.”
With Hight appointed to the team on Monday, the women’s halfpipe contingent is same as it was in 2006: Kelly Clark of Mount Snow, Vt.; South Lake Tahoe’s Hannah Teter; and Gretchen Bleiler of Aspen, Colo., led a near-medal sweep by the women in Italy.
“It’s pretty amazing (that this actually happened again),” High said. “All of the girls are really fun to be around and really fun to ride with.”
Clark has dominated the 2009-’10 season thus far, winning four of five Grand Prix events.
The men’s halfpipe team is also loaded with experience and medal history, including 2006 Olympic gold medalist Shaun White. Joining White is a lineup of talented riders with unique style, including Louie Vito (Sandy, Utah), who has back to back double corks in his repertoire and Scotty Lago (Seabrook, N.H.), who reaches mesmerizing heights with each hit in the pipe. Mammoth Lakes’ Greg Bretz, who has the coveted double cork in his bag as well, completes the men’s roster.
Truckee’s Danny Davis would have qualified for the Olympic team with a fourth in the Grand Prix standings, but suffered back and pelvis injuries earlier this month that will keep him out of competition.
“We are going in to the 2010 Games with one of the strongest athletic lineups possible,” U.S. Snowboarding head coach Peter Foley said. “We’re hoping to go into Vancouver and build on the successes we saw in 2006. This Team is in position to do great things.”
After winning four of five events at the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, White, who took the gold medal in 2006, has kept his stronghold on winning halfpipe events and will be a favorite in Vancouver.
“Shaun is truly an amazing competitor. After winning in 2006 he has been nonstop and has played a huge role in the progression halfpipe has seen in these past four years,” U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe head coach Mike Jankowski said.
Defending snowboardcross champion Wescott headlines one of the most talented boardercross men’s teams making its way to Vancouver. “It was a huge battle to make this men’s boardercross team,” Foley said. “Six different U.S. riders have already been on the World Cup podium this season, and only four of them make the Olympic Team. Vancouver is going to be an incredible fight for the podium, and our guys are ready for it.”
Five-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland of Squaw Valley is gunning for redemption after an unfortunate fall in the 2006 Games. After getting a surprise shot at being an Olympian in 2006, Graham Watanabe of Sun Valley, Idaho, is prepared for 2010, toting World Cup wins and an X Games silver medal on his way in. Joining the seasoned Olympians is World Championship bronze medalist Baumgartner of Iron River, Mich.
Palmer, Baumgartner and Ross Powers each claimed a World Cup third-place finish this season, but Baumgartner was higher in the season standings. “The Palm” had qualified for the 2006 Winter Games, but he suffered an Achillles tendon injury prior to Games and was unable to compete.
In the women’s boardercross field, Lindsey Jacobellis of Stratton Mountain, Vt., who earned silver in 2006, has taken win after win in the four years leading up to the 2010 Games and looks strong going in to Vancouver. Joining Jacobellis are Olympic newcomers and solid contenders Faye Gulini of Salt Lake City and Callan Chythlook-Sifsof of Girdwood, Alaska. Finalizing the Olympic Snowboarding Team are the Alpine racers, who are led by 2006 Olympian Tyler Jewell (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), who came out on top of the team selection process. Two-time Olympian and 2002 bronze medalist Chris Klug (Aspen, Colo.) joins Jewell for the men. Boston’s Michelle Gorgone, who also competed in 2006, will represent the U.S. for the women.
2010 U.S. OLYMPIC SNOWBOARDING TEAM
(name, hometown, age as of opening ceremonies, birthdate, (past Olympics))
Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, 19, 12/19/1990
Scotty Lago, Seabrook, N.H., 22, 11/12/1987
Louie Vito, Sandy, Utah, 21, 3/20/1988
Shaun White, Carlsbad, Calif., 23, 9/3/1986 (2006)
Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, Colo., 28, 04/10/1981 (2006)
Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, Vt., 26, 07/26/1983 (2002, 2006)
Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, 20, 08/17/1989 (2006)
Hannah Teter, South Lake Tahoe, 23, 01/27/1987 (2006)
Nick Baumgartner, Iron River, Mich., 28, 12/17/1981
Nate Holland, Squaw Valley, 31, 11/8/1978 (2006)
Graham Watanabe, Sun Valley, Idaho, 27, 03/19/1982 (2006)
Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, Maine, 33, 06/28/1976 (2006)
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, Girdwood, Alaska, 24, 04/17/1985
Faye Gulini, Salt Lake City, 17, 03/24/1992
Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton Mountain, Vt., 24, 08/19/1985 (2006)
Tyler Jewell, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 32, 02/21/1977 (2006)
Chris Klug, Aspen, Colo., 37, 11/18/1972 (1998, 2002)
Michelle Gorgone, Boston, 26, 10/18/1983 (2006)