Czeschin soars to top spot in qualifying run
Aspen, CO ColoradoBRECKENRIDGE – Before Shaun White arrived in Breckenridge last December and began an undefeated season that culminated in Olympic gold, Tommy Czeschin was the reigning Breck Grand Prix king.With White skipping this year’s North American superpipe opener, thus restoring hope to the rest of the world’s top riders, Czeschin picked up where he left off in 2005, qualifying No. 1 for today’s finals with a let-‘er-rip second run Friday at the first of three stops in the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix.A number of riders chose to save their best tricks for a potential finals performance, but Czeschin wasn’t among them. “The Machine” punctuated his second trip down Breck’s famous pipe with a flawless, almost poetic 1080 to earn a score of 45.6 points, best of any rider in the field of 101.
“I just threw that ‘cuz I landed my first run good, you know, so I had nothing to lose,” said Czeschin, 27, the California pipe specialist whose first run (43.5) still would’ve qualified him fifth if he’d eaten it on his second run. “It’s a little practice for tomorrow.”Should the 11-year national team veteran follow through on his qualifying success and claim today’s $14,000 winner’s check – up $4,000 from last year – it would mark his third career Grand Prix win, and all would have come at Breckenridge.But there’s a long list of riders itching to prevent that from happening, including Breck’s own Steve Fisher. The 24-year-old local needed a good second run in the morning’s first heat to get to the finals, and he didn’t disappoint. Fisher strung together a host of towering spins capped by back-to-back 900s to win his heat by a point over Canadian Crispin Lipscomb and qualify fourth overall.Afterward, Fisher said an unusually imperfect pipe prevented an even higher score than his 44.6.”I’m happy that I landed it,” he said of his run, “but I’m not happy with the way that it went because all week I’ve been landing that run like butter. I’ve never had a harder time landing that run since this summer.”Before you start wondering where all the teenage talent in freestyle snowboarding has gone, you should know that 19-year-old rippers Mason Aguirre (45.3) and Scotty Lago (45.1) qualified second and third, respectively.
Lago, who won this year’s World Cup opener in Switzerland last month, said he was nervous as usual, but overcame the jitters to take second in his heat, behind Aguirre.Aguirre, meanwhile, said he’s just happy not to have to face his friend Shaun White for a change.”Obviously Shaun proved himself last year as, like, ‘I can beat all you guys,’ but it’s kinda nice, actually, not having him here,” said Aguirre, a Minnesota product who took fourth at the ’06 Olympics. “There’s more money this year and it kinda gives other people a chance to step up and see who can get on top of the podium.”Two more American teenagers, Danny Davis and Michael Goldschmidt, joined their young peers in the top 10, finishing eighth (41.6) and ninth (41.4), respectively.A trio of international riders – Canadians Brad Martin and Lipscomb as well as Italy’s Giacomo Kratter – claimed spots 5-7 while teaming with Germany’s Christophe Schmidt (10th) to give the U.S. a run for the money in a sport it has dominated over the years.Perhaps the most notable name not to advance to the finals was Breck local Chad Otterstrom, a 30-year-old veteran who doesn’t hide the fact that pipe competitions are low on his priority list. Needing a good second run to make the afternoon cut, Otterstrom slashed the wall of the pipe like a surfer, then tried for what he called a “handplant into a switchback 9 – but I screwed my handplant up.”
He grinned. “I figured if I woulda got that switchback 9 I woulda made finals, but I screwed everything up.”He finished 46th.A pair of 2002 Olympic medalists, Ross Powers and J.J. Thomas, claimed the final two berths in today’s competition, qualifying 19th and 20th, respectively. In all likelihood, however, there will be only 19 men in the finals because the Italian Kratter is doubtful to start after crashing hard on his second run and being tobogganed out of the pipe by Breck Ski Patrol. He was one of a handful of riders who required patrol assistance after gnarly wipeouts.The action continues on Peak 8 this morning with women’s qualifying at 9 and men’s and women’s finals beginning at noon.
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