Olympic snowboard team is red, white and Tahoe blue: 5 from area will make trip to Tornio
The 16-member U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team had an obvious Lake Tahoe feel when it was announced on Sunday following a Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix halfpipe event in Mountain Creek, N.J.
Zephyr Cove 16-year-old Elena Hight was selected for women’s halfpipe and will join Meyers’ Hannah Teter (women’s halfpipe), Truckee’s Andy Finch (men’s halfpipe), Olympic Valley’s Nate Holland (men’s boardercross) and Sierraville’s Jayson Hale (men’s boardercross) on the team. No other region was better represented than Lake Tahoe.
“It’s really exciting,” said Teter, 18, who earned a spot on the team with first and second-place finishes early in the season. “It’s huge. It doesn’t get any bigger than the Olympics. I was working out all summer and came into the season with a lot of strength. I was just stoked to do well at two of the first three (Grand Prixs).”
Shaun White, who narrowly missed qualifying for the last Olympics, took first in all five of the qualifying events and is a favorite to win gold in men’s halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Colorado’s Gretchen Bleiler won four of the women’s halfpipe qualifying events and also is a favorite to contend for a medal.
Only three members of the team are former Olympians, including Mammoth Lakes’ Danny Kass, who won a silver medal in men’s halfpipe at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Kass clinched a spot on this year’s team after a second-place finish in Friday’s halfpipe event.
Other former Olympians are Kelly Clark, won a gold medal in women’s halfpipe in 2002, and Rosey Fletcher, who will be competing in her third consecutive Olympics in women’s parallel giant slalom. Since most members will be competing in this week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., the Olympic team won’t depart for Italy until early February.
South Lake Tahoe’s Shaun Palmer would’ve made the team in men’s boardercross but he tore his Achilles’ tendon during a World Cup qualifying race earlier this month and is being replaced by the 20-year-old Hale. The North Shore’s Holland has three World Cup podiums in boardercross this season and is a favorite to medal in that event, which will be making its Olympic debut.
“Adding snowboardcross brings an incredibly exciting event to the Olympics and, fortunately, we have many of the best riders of the world,” U.S. Snowboarding Program Director Jeremy Forster wrote in a press release. “This is the certainly not a one-dimensional Olympic Team. We have a huge legacy to live up to from our success in 2002, but I think everyone will see next month that this team is certainly as strong, maybe even stronger.”
Hight was already in good position before the last two halfpipe events, but she cemented her place on the team with a second-place finish in Friday’s competition and a third-place finish in Sunday’s competition. At 16, she is the team’s youngest member.
“I’m really excited about who made it,” Hight said. “Everyone who is going is a really good representation of U.S. snowboarders and snowboarders anywhere. I think we have the full potential to sweep (all the medals).”
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