Bleiler storms to top of superpipe
Less than 24 hours after questioning her confidence level heading into the X Games, Gretchen Bleiler looked as solid as ever in capturing a first-place finish in the preliminary round of the women’s snowboard superpipe Friday night. “It felt so good,” Bleiler said after the event. “Tonight was the first night [since a knee injury] that I actually rode with confidence and let it go. It felt really, really good.”The hometown girl – Bleiler grew up in Snowmass Village and now calls Aspen home – was sidelined through most of the 2003-04 season after partially tearing her ACL. On Thursday night, she told The Aspen Times, “The thing I’m missing out on is confidence. I still have all the tricks, and I know I can ride up to that level, it’s just the believing part; and stopping thinking so much.” Bleiler said she threw a big crippler in practice Friday morning, and everything just clicked. “It was probably the biggest crippler I’ve done all year,” she said. “It felt really good – basically I was back after that. I was really happy and confident and having so much fun.”
Bleiler said her confidence continued into the preliminaries, which eliminated eight of the 18 competitors. The finals are tonight at 7:30 p.m. “I knew I could do it, I wasn’t questioning anything,” Bleiler said. She added that she got a big boost from her hometown crowd. “The crowd was amazing, I could hear everyone screaming, and I just want to thank everyone so much for coming out – it was awesome,” she said. Bleiler came out on fire her first run and held a staggering 7.33 point lead over Australia’s Torah Bright, who was in second place heading into the second round. Bright would finish third.
Both of Bleiler’s runs were smooth and flawless. Doriane Vidal, of France, who was in ninth place after her first run, finished second after a clean, big-air, trick-filled second run that drew hefty applause from the spectators.Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark, both from Vermont, finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Bleiler said each of the 10 girls who advanced to the finals has the potential to win. “All of them are riding really well, you never know with any of them,” she said. “Crazy things happen in the finals.”
As for what Bleiler has up her sleeve, she recently learned a 900 – a move that has been done by only a few females in competition. Will she unveil it tonight? “We’ll see how it goes,” she laughed. Lindsey Jacobellis of Stratton, Vt.; Junko Asazuma of Japan; Mercedes Nicoll of Whistler; Elena Hight of Lake Tahoe; and Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas of Norway round out the finalists. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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