Bleiler, Klug open season with podium showings
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Snowmass Village’s Gretchen Bleiler and Aspen’s Chris Klug opened the World Cup snowboarding season with podium finishes over the weekend at Valle Nevado, Chile.
On Friday in the inaugural women’s halfpipe event of the 2003 season, Bleiler finished second with a score of 39.4 points. Canadian Maelle Ricker won the contest (41.1), and the 2002 Olympic gold medalist, Kelly Clark of Mount Snow, Vt., was third (37.1). Vermonters Hannah Teter and Tricia Byrnes rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth, respectively, and Andy Finch of Fresno, Calif., won the men’s event as the only American in the top five.
“It was great to see the girls do so well,” said U.S. head coach Peter Foley. “I think Gretchen [Bleiler] had a great first run and should’ve had a higher score ? she had a really clean run ? but the judges didn’t see it that way.”
Klug, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist in parallel giant slalom, was third in Sunday’s parallel giant slalom, or PGS, which was postponed from Saturday due to foul weather. He edged Swedish rider Daniel Biveson in the so-called “small final,” while Austrian Lukas Gruener topped Canadian Mark Fawcett for first-place honors.
Boulder’s Lisa Kosglow was third in the women’s PGS Sunday, giving the American team a total of five podium finishes on the weekend.
Klug knocked out fellow American Ryan McDonald of Entiat, Wash., in the first elimination round. (In PGS, the 16 fastest riders from a qualifying run advance to the final bracket, where riders face off in a head-to-head format.)
“It was unfortunate that Chris and Ryan had to race each other, but that’s the way the cards fall sometimes,” Foley said. “Everybody was ready to race yesterday, and they all came out today just as prepared. It’s definitely a good way to start the season.
“We didn’t really expect that much out of today’s event, so to come away with two podiums is great.”
Meanwhile, Fawcett rode into second place quite by surprise. The two-time Olympian and retired racer was in South America to appear in a kite-surfing film when countryman Jasey Jay Anderson was scratched from the PGS due to a head injury in the opening boardercross World Cup race Thursday at Valle Nevado. With gear on loan from Anderson, Fawcett made the seamless transition and rode all the way to second place.
“Everything went great today,” Foley said Sunday. “Today was a complete 180 from Saturday’s 60 mile-an-hour winds, and it’s great to see two podiums in the first PGS event, especially following the three we had Friday in halfpipe.”
(Material from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team was used in this report.)
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