Gretchen Bleiler second at Nippon Open
ALTS BANDAI, Japan Aspen snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler and Aussie Torah Bright are making it a habit of trading spots atop halfpipe podiums. Sunday, at Alts Bandai resort in the Tohoku region of Japan, Bleiler found herself looking up at Bright again after a dazzling third run in the halfpipe gave the Aussie her second straight win at the annual Nippon Open.The win moved Bright into first in the Swatch TTR World Rankings. Bleiler, who bested Bright at this year’s Winter X Games just a year after Bright bumped her back to silver, jumped into the TTR top 40 with her second-place showing.In front of a huge Japanese crowd, Bright strung together a winning run that included a frontside 540, a McTwist, a tailgrab to fakie combination, a Cab 720 nose grab and a backside alleyoop. Bleiler threw her signature crippler (inverted 540), a method air, a frontside 900 with a melon grab, a backside 540 and a frontside 720 lien air. Switzerland’s Manuela Laura Pesko took third with a backside 540 with a mute grab, a frontside 720 lien air, a Cab mute 360, a frontside air and a backside 720 with a mute grab. Bright now sits just a few points ahead of TTR World No. 2 Jamie Anderson, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., who did not qualify for the halfpipe final.Bright took an early lead with her first run of the day after qualifying seventh. A fall on her second attempt left her to better her score on her third and final attempt.”It feels really good to be leading the TTR World Tour at the moment,” said Bright, the defending TTR champion, in a news release. “I’m just hoping that I can keep up the consistency at the contests to stay up on top until the Roxy Chicken Jam and take the TTR title once again. But anybody can take it from me at anytime. It’s still a tight race to the end with Jamie, Kelly and Jenny. It would be amazing to get two in a row, maybe the hat trick. I’d like a hat trick. I thought it was always special in cricket to get a hat trick.” Californian Keir Dillon, on of Bleiler’s U.S. Snowboarding teammates, won Sunday’s men’s final.
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.