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No Olympic slot for snowboarder

Jon Maletz
Aspen's Chris Klug waves a bouquet of flowers after receiving his bronze medal in a ceremony at the Olympic Medals Plaza in Salt Lake City in 2002. (Aspen Times file)
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In 2002, Aspen’s Chris Klug was an Olympic bronze medalist. In 2006, Klug may not even have the chance to repeat the performance.Klug was a notable omission from the list of 16 snowboarders the U.S. Olympic Committee selected to represent the country in the Turin Games. The list included Snowmass Village’s Gretchen Bleiler and Basalt’s Jason Smith. The team includes only one Alpine men’s snowboarder – Tyler Jewell of Sudbury, Mass.Klug, a two-time Olympian, is not about to give up the fight just yet, however.”I’m shocked that they named Tyler and not me,” Klug said Sunday, in a telephone interview from Munich, Germany. “I feel they picked the wrong guy. We’ve already informed the USOC of the wrong decision. I’m confident they will reverse the decision.”

The brunt of Klug’s contention centers on the average of his two best results this season, which are stronger than Jewell’s, he said. Klug finished 16th Dec. 17 in a World Cup qualifier in Le Relais, Quebec, and 15th Jan. 8 in Kreischberg, Austria, an average finish of 15.5. Jewell’s two highest finishes – ninth and 24 in two Le Relais parallel giant slaloms – average out to 16.5.Snowboarders can automatically qualify for the Olympics in parallel giant slalom with a top-four World Cup result, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association guidelines. If athletes do not finish in the top four, the tiebreaker is a comparison between the top two World Cup finishes, as well as world ranking. On The International Ski Federation’s third list of total points, which is valid until Tuesday, Klug is 15th and Jewell 18th. In overall World Cup standings for the 2005-06 season, Jewell stands in 30th; Klug is 31st.”When you read the qualification criteria, it’s very clear,” said Klug, the top American finisher in the final two Olympic qualifiers. “There’s really no room for error. We should be the winner.”

Klug said he will file a formal grievance with the USOC today before making the trip home from Munich. Klug and his agent plan to meet with the USOC and USSA in Denver on Thursday.”I don’t know why they picked Tyler, and that’s why we’re gonna pursue this,” Klug said. “I’ll know for sure on Thursday.” Klug acknowledged the conversation could’ve been moot with convincing performances in the final two qualifiers. In Kreischberg, Klug opened up head-to-head competition by defeating the No. 3 qualifier. In his second race, however, he made a mistake on the course’s final gate and was passed just before the finish. A win in that round would’ve guaranteed Klug a top-eight finish.”A 15th doesn’t sound that impressive, but I was one gate from the quarterfinals, or possibly further” he said. “I was right in there.”

In the final Olympic qualifier on Jan. 15 in Olang, Italy, Klug was flawless during the course’s top half, but flew out halfway down, he said. Klug finished first in Olang in 2001, just six months after his liver transplant on July 28, 2000. “I’d say I’m riding as well as I have in my life, and I can win gold as much as anyone,” Klug said. “I didn’t get any breaks, and if the ball bounces a little differently here or there, I’d be in.”I just have to persevere and get through this. I’m confident that in the end it will work out.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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