Bleiler takes silver at Open

Aspen Times StaffAspen, CO Colorado
Women's halfpipe winner Kelly Clark, center, celebrates with silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler, right, and bronze medalist Torah Bright Saturday at the U.S. Open at Stratton Mountain in Bondville, Vt. (Alden Pellett/AP)

Aspen local Gretchen Bleiler won the silver medal at Stratton Mountain’s U.S. Open for the second year in a row Saturday, bowing to friend and U.S. Snowboarding teammate Kelly Clark.Clark, a native of West Dover, Vt. – just 9 miles down the road from Stratton – picked up her third Open halfpipe title after an unbeatable first run that included a 540 indy grab, frontside 720 and a Cab 360.”This is probably the biggest contest for me to win except the Olympics,” Clark told The Associated Press. “I’m gone all the time, and I get a chance to show people why I’m gone.”Bleiler won Open halfpipe titles in 2003 and 2005 and also won silver at last year’s Winter Olympics. Clark won Olympic gold in 2002 and Open titles in 2002 and 2004.

Australia’s Torah Bright, who upset Bleiler to win gold at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk in January, took the bronze – a result that earned her Burton’s Global Open Series Championship.Bright and men’s halfpipe winner Shaun White were each presented with $100,000 prize checks by Jake Burton for winning the respective women’s and men’s series crowns – the largest payout ever at a snowboard event.”Man, I’m so pumped right now, and I’m definitely pumped on Jake for throwing this much cash out there,” White said. “It’s one of those things where I was going for the title, but it didn’t seem attainable. A few years back, I felt like I had a U.S. Open curse on me because I never won it. Now I feel like the curse is broken for sure.” Bright also picked up another $5,000 for the best trick of the day for her fakie tailgrab.

She was literally speechless when told that she had won the Global Open Series championship title. “I can’t talk – oh my goodness,” she said. “It’s like I scratched a scratchy [lottery ticket] and won $100,000 – if only it was that easy. Now I’m going to buy a black Porsche for my dad. It’s his dream car.”The Global Open Series took place over eighth months as riders competed at halfpipe and slopestyle events in New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan and the U.S., earning points toward the championship title. Bright earned the record-breaking payout after taking first place in halfpipe and sixth in slopestyle at the Nissan X-Trail Nippon Open, followed by her slopestyle (second) and halfpipe podium finishes at this year’s U.S. Open.

White moved to the top of the series standings by taking first in the halfpipe and second in slopestyle at the Nippon Open and third in Friday’s slopestyle final, followed by his gold Saturday. The men’s halfpipe final featured the usual suspects from the Winter X Games – Mason Aguirre, Travis Rice, Danny Davis, Kevin Pearce, Steve Fisher, Antti Autti – but after being beaten numerous times this season, it was White who was untouchable.”The Flying Tomato” grabbed the lead from the start and just kept outscoring himself. His best run linked together a frontside 1080, Cab 1080, frontside 900, backside 900, frontside 720 and a switch alley oop backside rodeo 720 – earning him his winning 94.75 points. Davis took the silver for the second straight year, and Markus Malin from Finland rounded out the podium.