Aspen’s Chris Klug fifth in Austria
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
This is why Chris Klug races.
Perfect snow. A suitable hill and course set-up. A large, spirited crowd.
The Aspen snowboarder cannot argue with the results, either. Klug vaulted from 35th into second position after one qualifying run in Wednesday’s World Cup parallel giant slalom in Kreischberg, Austria. He wound up fifth in the Olympic qualifier.
More important, the 37-year-old is now 16th in the overall standings and second among Americans – trailing only Tyler Jewell of Massachusetts, who was fourth Wednesday.
Klug was 25th in the overall standings and fifth among the U.S. contingent after Dec. 17’s Olympic qualifier in Telluride.
“It’s a super rolling hill with lots of terrain and good snow. It’s that grippy man-made snow that we have at home,” Klug said of Kreischberg, where he finished eighth a season ago. “But it’s not the just the hill. I’m really riding well. … It’s all coming together at the right time.”
Even after an inauspicious start. Klug clipped a gate during training in early December and broke his right hand and wrist.
He competed in two qualifiers in Telluride with a cumbersome cast, finishing 15th and 23rd.
“I don’t think I’d call [the events in Telluride] lackluster results. I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I … was riding so well. I was second in [a NorAm in Steamboat in early December]. The injury was unfortunate, but I made the most of it.”
During the holiday break, Klug was fitted for a short, lightweight cast that he hoped would not impede him when trying to launch out of the starting gates.
The change paid off in Kreischberg.
“I really wasn’t thinking like I was in Telluride. I couldn’t ride as aggressively there,” Klug said. “It was a lot of fun.”
He was in second place after the first qualifying run, then slipped to fifth after the second. In the head-to-head rounds, Klug topped Germany’s Patrick Bussler to advance to the quarterfinals. There, he squared off with Austrian Andreas Prommegger.
Klug took a .01-second lead on the hometown rider after the first run. He squandered that advantage during a second run in which “I made a couple mistakes.”
“I was too aggressive with the line and leaned in just a little,” Klug added. “Here on his home turf, Andy was riding tough. … He was riding fast and obviously was motivated.
“I was just a little bummed. I was that close to getting into the top four and the semifinals.”
Canada’s Jasey Jay Anderson bested Prommegger in the finals. Austria’s Benjamin Karl finished third.
Klug cracked the top-five on the World Cup circuit for the first time since December 2004, when he finished fourth in a PGS in Kronplatz, Italy.
He has not climbed the podium since March of 2004. Klug is hoping to end that drought in two remaining Olympic qualifiers in Nendaz, Switzerland (Jan. 15) and at Stoneham Mountain Resort in Quebec (Jan. 25).
Do that, and Klug will likely make his third Olympic team. The squad will likely include two alpine snowboarders, he said. The official announcement comes Jan. 25.
Klug was sixth in giant slalom in 1998 in Japan and won bronze in PGS in 2002 in Utah, not long after receiving a liver transplant.
“This gets me closer, but I still have some work to do,” Klug said. “It’s going to be tight. … I’m riding well and having lots of fun. I’m confident I can get on the podium in one of those two [qualifiers].”
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American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.