Basalt boardercrosser heads to X Games
January 18, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoOlympian Jason Smith won’t be the only Basalt local running boardercross next week at Winter X Games 11.Eighteen-year-old Cleve Johnson made sure of that last weekend at Lake Tahoe’s Sugar Bowl when he won the boardercross final at the Jabra X-Jam, the Winter X Games’ only last-chance qualifier.Johnson, 18, bested a field of 60 riders that included Bode Miller’s younger brother, Chelone, and 1998 Olympic halfpipe bronze medalist Ross Powers. Only the top two riders out of the qualifier earned a spot among the 35 boardercrossers invited to this year’s games.Johnson, who finished sixth at the same event last year, said he’s still somewhat overwhelmed by the proposition of competing against the best in the world on one of his home mountains. He used to be a starstruck spectator at the Winter X Games. Now he’ll be one of the guys with a bib jockeying for a spot at the front of the pack.
That is, of course, if he finishes among the top 24 in his individual time trial to make it into one of four heats of six.”It’s awesome,” said Johnson, who graduated from Yampa Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs last year and is working on his associate of arts degree at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs. “Ever since the X Games have been at Buttermilk, I’ve always wanted to ride that course. I’m just shooting for top 12, so I automatically make it back next year.”Carbondale’s Loyd Tucker, 20, also raced his way into the Winter X Games at the Tahoe event when he won the skiercross final.Johnson first started skiing at age 3, then switched to snowboarding at 7. He started competing locally in boardercross series races at age 12 and has raced at USASA Nationals since 2002.Until the age of 13, Johnson was enrolled in the snowboarding program at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club but dropped out to train by himself.
“I’m a soul rider,” he said. “One of the reasons I went to Yampa Mountain was because it allowed me to fit in snowboarding. I snowboarded at Snowmass as much as I could.”In March, Johnson won a silver medal in the men’s open class at the USASA Nationals at Northstar-at-Tahoe. He’s also competed at Grand Prix events and in NorAm Cup races, trying to secure enough FIS points to earn a spot on the U.S. national team. The ultimate goal is to make it to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. If he doesn’t make the U.S. team, Johnson said there’s a chance he’ll race for the Netherlands. It’s the birthplace of his mother, Anneka Scholton, who emigrated to the U.S. in her 20s. Johnson’s heritage qualified him for dual citizenship, which he secured last year.”[The Netherlands] doesn’t have a snowboard team, so I’ve been looking into starting one,” he said. “I’ve got my Dutch passport.”
Johnson said he remembers Smith, 25, from when both of them were at AVSC, but he doesn’t know him that well. It will be an honor to race against him, he said. He’s also looking forward to the home crowd cheering him on.”My parents we’re really excited for me,” Johnson said. “They know how hard I’ve been working at this, trying to get somewhere with snowboarding. They’re pretty stoked on it. …I’m hoping to have a pretty good crowd there. Most of my friends are in college now, but people usually come back from school for the X Games. It should be fun.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
Gretchen Bleiler, Snowmass, snowboard superpipeTricia Byrnes, Aspen, snowboard superpipe Jess Cumming, Aspen, skiing superpipe Sam Ferguson, Aspen, mono-skiercross Cleve Johnson, Basalt, boardercross Jordan Karlinski, Snowmass, boardercross Peter Olenick, Carbondale, skiing slopestyle, superpipe Casey Puckett, Aspen, skiercross Lloyd Tucker, Carbondale, skiercross