American boarders golden in Lake Placid
American snowboarders continued their international dominance Saturday as Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and 2002 Olympian Tommy Czeschin won the 2006 State Farm U.S. Snowboard Cup halfpipe.Both competitors posted the highest scores in their first of two runs at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Bleiler’s winning run included a crippler 540 into a backside 540 indy, to a frontside 540 to a backside air and a frontside 720. Her score of 47.3 bested that of second-place finisher Manuela Laura Pesko of Switzerland by 4.7 points. Poland’s Paulina Ligocka was third, in front of Clair Bidez (Minturn) and Tricia Byrnes (Stratton, Vt.).”It feels good, this contest has been fun just practicing and working on tricks,” Bleiler said. “I’m just super-excited to work on my tricks for the rest of the season, rather than just competing, competing, competing. The Olympics were absolutely the highlight of my season, but I’m happy to slow down a bit.”Between training days, Bleiler also took time to soak up some additional Olympic flavor by taking a bobsled ride at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the 1980 Olympic venue.
Following two days of intermittent rain, thousands of fans enjoyed a sun-drenched afternoon as they watched riders boost out of the Bear superpipe.”They did such a good job,” Bleiler said. “Our first day of practice, the pipe was a little iffy, and it was difficult to ride. The next day it was really fun, and the rain softened it up. But they did an excellent job cleaning it up, and today it was really smooth, definitely the best it’s been all week.”Czeschin was also ready to take a break from riding in order to regroup after the grueling qualifying series.
“I took tons of time off after the Grand Prix series and I really just came here to ride, but I’m so stoked that I ended up winning,” said Czeschin, who racked up a first-run score of 44.1. “I haven’t had a victory lap in while, so that was really great. It’s cool here in Lake Placid. I was here over five years ago for the Goodwill Games and it was good then, but it’s even better now.”Czeschin’s run included a frontside 720 to a cab 720 to a frontside 900 into a backside 540, a lein air capped by a backside 720. Also in the final was Steve Fisher (Breckenridge), who qualified first but finished seventh. Rounding out the men’s podium was Jan Michaelis of Germany, who finished third at Whiteface one year ago, and Takahiro Ishihara of Japan. The event will air on NBC at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, March 26.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.