It’s official: Aspen’s Klug, Bleiler stamp tickets to Vancouver
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
King of the comeback, Chris Klug is heading back to the Olympics.
Eight years after bringing his inspirational story to Salt Lake City, the 37-year-old Aspen snowboarder will return to the games in Vancouver.
Klug won a bronze medal in 2002 in parallel giant slalom, only 19 months after a successful liver transplant, but saw his chance for a return trip in 2006 quashed after losing an appeal over technicalities in the Olympic qualifying system.
He encountered more trouble last year when he didn’t make the U.S. Snowboarding “A” team and was denied funding in the lead-up to the 2010 Games. But he started his own team – America’s Snowboard Team – and carved a new route to the Olympics.
“I’m really proud to have overcome some of the challenges,” Klug said Monday after finding out he had officially made the team. “We set out to create our own team. It worked. I made it. We put together one of the best training environments ever, and I’m proud of that.”
Klug sealed his spot with an eighth-place finish in a World Cup event over the weekend.
He’ll be joined on the American PGS team with Tyler Jewell, the rider who beat him out for the only spot in 2006, then had to wait for Klug’s appeal to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which was ultimately rejected.
“He shook my hand after the race Sunday and said, ‘We’re teammates again,”‘ Klug said. “He told me congratulations. I was really stoked about that.”
Michelle Gorgone will be America’s only woman rider in PGS, which is widely regarded as the least-popular of the three Olympic snowboarding disciplines – one of the main reasons funding is more difficult to come by.
The United States also added two halfpipe riders to the team Monday – 2006 Olympian Elena Hight and Greg Bretz. They’ll join Shaun White, Louie Vito, Scotty Lago, Kelly Clark, Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler and Hannah Teter, whose spots were announced Saturday at a U.S. Grand Prix event. White, Clark, Bleiler and Teter have a combined three Olympic gold and one silver medal between them.
Lindsey Jacobellis was officially nominated to the team in snowboardcross. She settled for silver in 2006 after falling while grabbing her snowboard to celebrate what looked like was going to be an easy victory. Nate Holland, Nick Baumgartner, Graham Watanabe and defending Olympic champion Seth Wescott will compete for the men.
Klug, meanwhile, is making his third Olympics – a string that began when snowboarding was introduced in 1998 and reached its crescendo on a sunsplashed day in Park City, Utah, eight years ago.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.