Bleiler pulls out of superpipe
ASPEN – So much for an Olympic preview in women’s halfpipe.
Aspen local and defending Winter X Games superpipe champion Gretchen Bleiler pulled out of Friday night’s qualifying round five minutes before the event’s start. Bleiler’s mother, Robin Gorog, said her daughter was mentally exhausted after weeks of doing publicity for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, where Bleiler is favored to win gold.
Bleiler’s friend and teammate on the U.S. Snowboard Olympic Team, Hannah Teter, another medal favorite in Turin, was also absent from the qualifier. Gorog said she wasn’t certain why Teter withdrew.
Teter, who was seen around the Winter X Games village Friday, missed the fifth and final U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix halfpipe final in New Jersey on Sunday.
Teter’s decision to opt out of the Winter X Games had no bearing on her daughter’s decision to pull out of Friday’s qualifier, Gorog said.
“We were watching her ride today, and she just looked exhausted,” Gorog said. “She came up here, and she was all ready for it tonight, but she rode and she was just exhausted. She just wasn’t riding the way she normally rides. She said, ‘I just can’t pull it together for this one.'”
Bleiler and Teter have won the past three superpipe finals at Winter X ” Bleiler’s wins coming last year and in 2003 and Teter’s lone gold coming in 2004. Teter won in Bleiler’s absence, after a knee injury sidelined Bleiler for most of the 2003-2004 season.
Gorog said she first learned of her daughter’s decision to pull out of Friday night’s field from an ESPN cameraman. Then her cell phone started ringing a few minutes later.
“She said, ‘Everything’s fine. I don’t want you to be upset,'” Gorog said. “It was a tough decision. She loves this. This is her event. She loves the crowd and the support and she loves the X Games. This is her town.”
Earlier in the day, Lindsey Jacobellis of Stratton, Vt. ” another one of Bleiler’s teammates on the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team and a medal favorite in Turin for boardercross ” pulled out of the Winter X Games boardercross qualifying because of a knee injury.
In a written statement, Jacobellis, the three-time defending X Games boardercross champion, said she “overshot one of the smaller jumps [in practice], and it felt like I strained my knee.” She added, “In no way will this incident change my status for the 2006 Winter Olympics. I am still looking forward to realizing my Olympic dreams and will be riding strong in Torino.”
Without Bleiler and Teter in the field, 2002 Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark earned the best qualifying score with an 89.33. Soko Yamaoka, a Japanese rider who will compete at the upcoming Olympics, was second with an 80-point run.
Torah Bright of Australia was third with a score of 78.
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