No Winter Olympics for Aspen’s Chris Klug
Aspen snowboard racer Chris Klug is not heading to the Olympics.The 2002 bronze medalist’s attempt to overturn the United States Ski Association’s decision to bypass him and choose another racer for the team failed before an arbitrator Friday in Denver. The final ruling was handed down just before 3 p.m. Friday, said Maureen Weekes of the United States Olympic Committee’s public relations office.”I am certainly disappointed,” the 33-year-old Klug said in a telephone interview. “It just boils down to a disagreement with the application of the criteria. I wanted a fair hearing on the matter and it was the process recommended by the USOC. I think I had a fair hearing and I respect the arbitrator’s decision.”With the decision, Tyler Jewell, a Sudbury, Mass., native and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club member, retains his spot on the team.Arbitrator Maidie Oliveau was charged with the task of deciphering the meaning of the words “World Cup results,” which the USSA uses to determine who makes the team. According to the guidelines, since no alpine snowboarding athletes had a top-four finish in a World Cup qualifier, only one position was available. Klug and Jewell’s top two World Cup results were weighed against one another.
Klug, during a nine-hour hearing Thursday in Denver, contended his two best results – a 16th and 15th – produced an average finish of 15.5, one point better than Jewell’s. Both the USSA and Jewell argued that Jewell’s top two finishes earned more in the International Ski Federation’s weighted points scale. Jewell’s ninth-place finish helped him carry a 360-310 points edge over Klug. There was also evidence that Klug accepted the USSA’s criteria until his final competition, at which point others pointed out the guidelines could have a second meaning that favored him.Oliveau concluded that while the USSA uses the words “results” and “finish” interchangeably “in what is unfortunately a sloppy matter … the late reading by Klug of the criteria in a new way, favorable to him, led to the conclusion that the USSA’s interpretation must be upheld.”The Jewell family did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
“Both Chris and Tyler are outstanding, world-class athletes and either would be a great Olympian,” USSA vice president of athletics Alan Ashley said in a news release. “We greatly respect Chris for his accomplishments in the sport.”Klug’s initial disagreement arose after receiving word Sunday that he was left off the U.S. Olympic snowboarding 16-man roster – one that includes Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler and Basalt’s Jason Smith. Klug, in Munich, Germany, at the time, filed a grievance Monday.Klug, back in Aspen Friday afternoon, was terse but ready to move on.”I’ll certainly be watching Gretchen and Jason and all the Olympians,” said Klug, who said he is unsure whether he would make the trip to Italy for the games, which start Feb. 10. “I was hoping I could join them, but I’ll be cheering extra loud.
“With Tyler, this was never personal. I respect him as an athlete, and I wish him the best of luck.”Klug, a professional since 1991, said he still loves competing and, despite a few mistakes, is riding better than ever. He did not rule out the possibility that he would again be gunning for gold when the Winter Olympics hit Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010. “My dream is to return to a third Olympics and win a gold medal like my fellow competitors,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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