Aspen’s Bleiler wins Grand Prix opener |

Aspen’s Bleiler wins Grand Prix opener

Aspen Times Staff Report

Gretchen Bleiler inverts above the halfpipe at Breckenridge's Peak 8 on her way to taking first place in the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix on Saturday. (Eric Drummond/Summit Daily News)

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. For a fresh start, this felt like old times. Local Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and Olympic gold medalist Shaun White took the top podium spots Saturday as the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix kicked off at Breckenridge.Bleiler linked together a run featuring her trademark crippler, a frontside alley-oop, frontside 540 truck driver, a backside 540 and a frontside 900 for her winning score of 45.3.Reigning Grand Prix champion and 2002 Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark of Mount Snow, Vt., came in second with 42.6 points. Rounding out the women’s podium was Turin Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter of Belmont, Vt., who finished with a huge frontside 900 to earn her a matching podium spot with her brother.”It’s nice to win the first contest of the season,” Bleiler said in a U.S. Snowboarding news release. “It’s always great for confidence. I’ve been riding the past couple of days and early season is always hard for me because it takes me a little while to get back to that level I was riding at [the end of last season]. I was able to step up today, and it feels good to overcome that battle.”Right on White’s heels with a point difference of .6, hometown hero Steve Fisher – who beat White at the Winter X Games in January – came in second. He was followed by two-time Grand Prix winner Elijah Teter of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., who rose from qualifying at fifth place to take third place. White’s entry into the field came as a surprise, but according to him, not planning to compete took the added pressure off.”This year I’m just trying to have some fun and not really put too much pressure on things, and so I wasn’t going to do the event,” he said. “Then, I just knew, I was here, I felt good and I just went for it. It was more fun I think because there wasn’t really pressure thinking about it the whole week.”White won with a straight air into a backside 900 to a frontside 1080, finishing with a Cab 1080 and a frontside 900.The win for White was just the latest change of momentum in his back-and-forth rivalry with Fisher.”They’re two of the best riders in the world, so any time they’re in the same competition going head to head, it’s going to be exciting,” said U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe coach Mike Jankowski. “It’s just about who rides best on that particular day and today was Shaun’s day, but Steve was not far behind him and had a great couple of runs. Steve has what it takes to be the best on any given day as well, as he’s proven.””It was a lot of fun. The pipe lined up amazingly, the sun was out and it was sick. It was just great all around,” Fisher said.Nearly 150 riders from a nine countries competed in the Grand Prix.”I’m looking at an international field and we’re stacking up,” Jankowski said. “The fact that we were able to take those top spots is something that’s noteworthy and also something that makes me happy. That was our goal, to not give up any of those top [podium] spots. We wanted to be the top riders here, and I think all our U.S. riders proved that they are.”

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