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Aspen’s Bleiler clinches Olympic bid in Mammoth

Courtesy Sierra SunAspen's Gretchen Bleiler sealed a spot on the U.S. Olympic snowboard team Saturday at the Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Courtesy Sierra SunAspen's Gretchen Bleiler sealed a spot on the U.S. Olympic snowboard team Saturday at the Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. – What did Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler do after she won the third Grand Prix of the season Saturday at Mammoth Mountain and earned a bid to the 2010 Winter Olympics?

She hugged one friend. Then another. Then Danny Kass, two-time silver medalist, picked her up and carried her through the crowd on his shoulders.

“It feels good to have so many people happy for me,” said Bleiler, after climbing down. “And I won with a run I’ve never done before. That always feels good, too.”

Bleiler’s winning run, her first of two, started with a huge 900 and followed with a pair of 700s and a straight air.

South Lake Tahoe’s Elena Hight finished second. Hannah Teter, who was on the 2006 Olympic team, finished third. Kelly Clark, who earned her spot on the Olympic team Wednesday, finished fourth.

For Clark, the podium finish was anti-climactic on some level, having qualified prior to Saturday’s final for her third Olympics. But the wise veteran of the sport and two-time medalist said she was proud.

“You know, I think going into the qualifying this year, I had a lot better idea of what I was going into,” Clark said.

Teter found the podium with a mix of 540s, a cab 7 and a frontside 7, but said after six straight days of competition, she was satisfied.

“It was hard today,” she said. “I’m beat.”

The final Olympic qualifier is next weekend in Park City, Utah, where a number of athletes are close enough to compete for that third and final spot.