‘Palm’ on Olympic bubble
South Lake Tahoe’s Shaun Palmer and his bid to make the U.S. Olympic Team in boardercross took a confusing turn this past weekend at the final World Cup race before the 2006 Winter Games.
Jason Smith, whose previous best World Cup finish was eighth, won Saturday’s boardercross event in Kronplatz, Italy, while Sierraville’s Jayson Hale took third.
According to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association athlete selection procedures, the two automatic spots for the U.S. Olympic Team are determined by the number of athletes who have top-4 finishes in a World Cup race.
Since Squaw Valley’s Nate Holland, Seth Wescott, Palmer, Smith and Hale all have top-4 finishes, the USSA then states the highest single finish by those athletes will determine which two riders make the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team.
Holland won an event this season and is a lock to make the team. But because of the boardercross field’s talent and depth, it’s likely the U.S. will carry four boardercross riders on its 16-member team, which includes both genders in the disciplines of parallel giant slalom, halfpipe and boardercross.
Wescott and Palmer both have second-place World Cup finishes and were solid picks to join Holland on the four-man team. Hale, whose best finish before this weekend was fourth, was also expected to make the team.
But after Smith’s unexpected first-place finish on Saturday, he and Holland have locked up the two automatic spots, leaving Palmer, Wescott and Hale waiting to hear their fates.
If more than two boardercross riders are to be selected, a five-person panel will judge the various athletes on several criteria, including but not limited to things such as attitude, recent trend of results and indication of future medal potential.
The decision from that panel will be revealed on Saturday, when the snowboard selections for the U.S. Olympic Team will be announced following a U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in New Jersey.
Palmer, 37, has two top-5 World Cup finishes this season, including a second-place finish earlier this month in Austria. After an unsuccessful attempt to make the Olympic team four years ago in halfpipe, the South Shore resident decided to make a comeback in boardercross.
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