Bleiler cripples field in New Jersey
MOUNTAIN CREEK, N.J. – Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler and Shaun White of Carlsbad, Calif., continued to dominate the 2006 Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix series Friday evening, winning the first of two halfpipe contests this weekend at Mountain Creek resort in Vernon, N.J. Saturday night’s halfpipe final was rescheduled for Sunday due to high winds.White notched his fourth-straight Grand Prix win while Bleiler, who fell on her first run, rebounded on her second to post her third win.Returning to podium for her fourth-straight contest was Elena Hight of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., who finished second for the second time this season. Hannah Teter of Belmont, Vt., who already has a Grand Prix win and a second place to her credit, took third. Bleiler’s good friend Tricia Byrnes of Stratton, Vt. was fourth.U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Coach Bud Keene said the picture of the women’s Olympic halfpipe team is shaping up nicely for upcoming Winter Games in Turin, Italy.”These women are unbelievable, and that bodes well for the Olympics,” Keene said. “We are so fortunate to have so many good women pushing each other right to Torino and keeping each other sharp. This is world-class riding. These girls are sharpening their acts and getting ready for Torino. They are riding at a higher level than almost all women in the world and they’re doing it like it’s nothing and stomping their runs every time.”While Keene may not be surprised at the women’s performances, Bleiler said she surprised herself when she got to the competition and found herself waging a mental war against her own confidence.”Today in practice I felt great, but when it was time to compete, I had a really weird feeling,” said Bleiler. “I didn’t feel focused at all for my first run and I ended up falling. I just totally took myself out of it and had so many negative thoughts in my mind. I really wouldn’t have bet 50 cents on me winning.
“I knew I needed to get myself out of the mental craziness I had going on, so I just went up to the top of the pipe and turned my music on and kept moving, getting my focus back. I somehow pulled it out – I’m pretty psyched I overcame that.”Bleiler, who edged Hight by a mere .40 of a point for the win, kicked off her second run with her signature crippler followed by a backside 540, frontside 540, backside air and finishing with a frontside 900. Her main goal for Saturday afternoon’s contest is “to get my 9 with a grab.””I know I can do it,” she said. “I did it this fall in New Zealand, and tonight I wanted to do it, but I had too much going on mentally. So that’s the goal for tomorrow: to do it in practice and then grab my 9 in both runs tomorrow night.” White was joined on the podium by two “new” faces: 2002 Olympic silver medalist Danny Kass – a Vernon, N.J., local – and Keir Dillon, White’s neighbor in Carlsbad, who captured their first Grand Prix podiums this season. “It’s the best feeling,” said White, all smiles after taking a “victory lap” for his second run, knowing the contest was in the bag. “The pressure is gone and you just want to have some fun … I think that’s what’s really doing it for me – just having fun.”For White, “fun” includes what’s becoming his signature run: a frontside air, backside 900, frontside 1080, cab 1080, frontside 900 and finishing with a McTwist. On Friday the run earned him an unbeatable score of 45.6. But that’s not all White has in his bag of tricks, he said.”I got some stuff left over. I’ve been holding some runs for the Olympics for sure, but I think that tomorrow will be a good time to let it all out,” he said. “I’ve wanted this ever since I was 6 years old. It’s a good feeling to have a dream and feel it coming true.”
Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand PrixMountain Creek, N.JHalfpipe Finals No. 1Women1. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, Colo., 42.42. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 42.03. Hannah Teter, Belmont, Vt., 38.54. Tricia Byrnes, Stratton Mtn., Vt., 37.9 5. Kelly Clark, West Dover, Vt., 35.16. Molly Aguirre, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 29.2 7. Clair Bidez, Minturn, Colo., 24.48. Sabrina Ste-Marie, Vail, Colo., 20.99. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton Mtn., Vt., 19.010. Ellery Hollingsworth, Darien, CT., 18.5
Men1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, Calif., 45.62. Danny Kass, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 41.43. Keir Dillon, Carlsbad, Calif., 41.14. Tommy Czeschin, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 40.05. JJ Thomas, Golden, Colo., 39.36. Ross Powers, South Londonderry, Vt., 39.27. Kevin Pearce, Norwich, Vt., 38.98. Scott Lago, Seabrook, N.H., 38.59. Steven Fisher, Breckenridge, Colo., 38.510. Danny Davis, Highland, Mich., 37.9
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.