Minghini breaks into top 10 in Visa Snowboarding Cup boardercross event
SUNDAY RIVER, Maine – The USA made its mark on the men’s podium as Graham Watanabe (Sun Valley, Idaho) won and 2002 Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers (Londonderry, Vt.) finished third in snowboardcross at the 2009 Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup Saturday at Sunday River Resort in Maine.
“This was so ideal I couldn’t have written it any better,” Watanabe said. “This is a fairytale ending to a pretty darn good season.”
Robert Minghini of the South Shore led four Lake Tahoe riders by finishing eighth. X Games gold medalist Nate Holland was 21st, South Lake Tahoe’s Shaun Palmer placed 23rd and Pat Holland came in 27th.
It was the only win this season for Watanabe who arranged to take the rest of the competition schedule off in order to prepare for Olympic qualification in 2010. However, while the win is an amazing finale to his season, Watanabe said he didn’t see it coming,
“I am pretty surprised right now. I have not run this course well since we got here. I qualified 22nd. But it all fell into place and it was meant to be,” Watanabe said.
With a second-place finish at the Visa Snowboardcross Championship Series stop at Boreal Resort in California as well as Saturday’s win, Watanabe solidified his spot as the national champion, for which he will be awarded the coveted green champion’s jacket.
“I cannot tell you how psyched I am for that. I have been itching for it,” Watanabe said. “The year that I lost my national title is the year that they started giving out the green jacket, so I am dying to throw that on my shoulders.”
Joining Watanabe on the podium was Powers, who led the historic U.S. sweep of the men’s halfpipe podium at the 2002 Olympics. It was the first snowboardcross World Cup competition of Powers’ storied career as well as his first SBX podium.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more today. To get on the podium in my first World Cup, I am so excited,” Powers said.
Powers recently began competing in snowboardcross and had to work his way up to the World Cup level.
“The main thing was focusing on snowboardcross this year. I had to start at the NorAm level to earn points and then on to the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix went pretty well. I’ve left my freestyle board at home and focused on it,” Powers said. “The U.S. guys have all been helping me out and letting me follow them. Since Graham is going to take a little bit of a break, I get to go on to the next World Cups. I made my plane ticket through the finals in Italy and I had to get into the top 50 before then, so this should help me out.”
According to Watanabe, racing with and being on the podium alongside Powers was a privilege.
“It’s just crazy to me. This is a guy who you see on TV and you don’t think much more of it than that because he is a professional snowboarder,” Watanabe said. “And then you see him next to you in the gate and to see him succeed on so many different platforms in snowboarding is impressive and it’s such an honor to be riding next to that.”
Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, Vt.) led the way for the U.S. women, finishing fourth after a challenging course feature slowed her down in the finals.
“Right off the bat I went horribly wrong off the first feature and I was chasing after the girls the rest of the way down. I was just grunting my teeth and trying to make aggressive moves,” Jacobellis said. “Mellie [Francon, Switzerland] and I just kept clicking each other and then I backed off. It’s not worth getting hurt because I was all over the place. I don’t need to take out another rider because I respect these women. It wasn’t my day, it was Maelle’s [Ricker, Canada].”
However, with her win from Boreal, Jacobellis came away with the national title.
“It definitely feels good to have the national championship and to still be leading in the points,” Jacobellis said.
NBC will broadcast the event Saturday, and Versus will re-air it at 2 p.m. the same day.
LG FIS SNOWBOARD WORLD CUP
VISA U.S. SNOWBOARDING CUP
Sunday River, Maine
1. Graham Watanabe, Sun Valley, Idaho
2. Lukas Gruener, Austria
3. Ross Powers, Londonderry, Vt.
4. Robert Fagan, Canada
5. David Speiser, Germany
7. Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, Maine
8. Robert Minghini, South Lake Tahoe
11. Nick Baumgartner, Iron River, Mich.
12. Jason Smith, Basalt, Colo.
15. Jayson Hale, Sierraville, Calif.
18. Jonathan Cheever, Saugus, Mass.
20. Alex Deibold, Manchester Center, Vt.
21. Nate Holland, Squaw Valley
23. Shaun Palmer, South Lake Tahoe
27. Pat Holland, Squaw Valley
29. Chelone Miller, Franconia, N.H.
1. Maelle Ricker, Canada
2. Helene Olafsen, Norway
3. Mellie Francon, Switzerland
4. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton Mountain, Vt.
5. Zoe Gillings, Great Britain
13. Marni Yamada, Seattle, Wash.