Bleiler collects eighth straight victory
Aspen Times Staff Writer
This is one birthday present that’ll be hard to top.
Local snowboard trickster Gretchen Bleiler – just four days shy of her 22nd birthday – snagged the keys to a Chevy truck Sunday after “stomping” the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix superpipe at Buttermilk Mountain. The Grand Prix victory bumped Bleiler’s hot streak to eight wins in a row, including top finishes at the Winter X Games and the U.S. Open.
“Winning seven in a row is amazing, but [eight] …” she said. “Just today, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it again, but I did. I don’t know how – hometown, maybe. I have all my family and friends here.”
Bleiler also had the help of her toughest competition, 16-year-old Vermont native Hannah Teter. Bleiler and Teter were neck-and-neck entering the Grand Prix finals Sunday afternoon, pushing both riders to take a few chances with their tricks.
In fact, Bleiler and Teter have battled it out in every Grand Prix contest this season. Though Teter came out on top in both Park City and Breckenridge contests, Bleiler came in a close second.
“It’s so good to have Hannah [at these competitions] because she pushes everyone to push themselves. It’s good – everyone’s riding so well,” Bleiler said.
Teter agreed, pointing to a tough crowd of competitors out for Sunday’s contest.
“It was pretty cool. There were some pretty cool girl riders out here, you know, pushing it to the max, so I was just glad to be out here,” she said.
Bleiler pulled out a few impressive tricks in her final runs of the day, including a “crippler 540” combination ending in a “crippler 720.” Bleiler’s big air was met with big cheers from, well, a small crowd – a driving snow drove away many supporters as the afternoon wore on.
Teter’s final run of the day was a tense one for Bleiler fans – the Grand Prix Rookie of the Year landed several “frontside 900s” – a definite attention-getter – throughout the day. Unfortunately, an early fall cost Teter a few points, and helped Bleiler gain an advantage with judges.
Bleiler and Teter ended the day’s contest with a hug and praise for each other when swamped by reporters. Bleiler even credited Teter’s adventurousness with winning new fans to their sport.
“You talk to people now and they’re like, ‘We love watching women’s halfpipe!’ It’s an exciting thing, to be involved in the progression,” Bleiler said.
Though much of Sunday’s crowd was caught up in Bleiler’s win, 52 additional riders turned out for men’s competition.
On the men’s side, Minnesota native Steve Fisher survived two tough crashes to cap the day with a 43-point run – one that included a crowd-pleasing “backside 540” – and a first-place finish. California’s Andy Finch slid into second place, just 4.2 points behind Fisher – not bad for a rider who, just two weeks ago, spent a day in intensive care following a debilitating crash at a European contest. Californian and former Olympian Tommy Czeschin took third place in Sunday’s contest.
Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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