Most US slopestyle snowboard pros out at Laax Open after athletes test positive
FRISCO — Positive tests and contact tracing have resulted in the majority of the U.S. snowboard pro slopestyle team not being able to take part in the Laax Open this week in Switzerland — the first snowboard slopestyle competition of a 2020-21 season ravaged by postponements and cancellations in response to the pandemic.
U.S. snowboard slopestyle pro team members Kyle Mack — the 2018 Olympic big air silver medalist — and Lyon Farrell announced on their social media channels Monday that they had tested positive for the virus. The positive tests forced Mack and Farrell out of this week’s Laax Open along with seven of their teammates, who were sent to quarantine.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard officials said in a statement that Mack, a part-time Silverthorne resident, and Farrell have been tested multiple times per week since arriving in Europe and that all of their tests through their competition early last week at the Kreischberg, Austria, World Cup produced negative results.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard spokesperson Andrew Gauthier confirmed Tuesday that Mack and Farrell do not have any symptoms of the virus and have been self-isolating since the positive test result.
While Mack and Farrell have been in self-isolation, other U.S. snowboard team athletes who traveled and shared accommodations with them at the Austrian big air World Cup have undertaken ongoing testing. U.S. Ski & Snowboard officials said no other positive cases have been found since testing of the other seven athletes began.
Despite the negative test results, Austrian and International Ski & Snowboard COVID-19 policies dictate that the seven athletes traced to Mack and Farrell are unable to compete in Laax due to a mandatory quarantine in Austria. U.S. Ski & Snowboard officials said all athletes will travel back to the U.S. upon completing their mandatory quarantine periods.
One of those athletes is 2017 X Games Aspen slopestyle gold medalist and reigning Laax Open women’s slopestyle champion Julia Marino, who shared on her social media account Sunday that she won’t be competing due to a “COVID-19 incident on my team.”
The list of American slopestyle riders who competed in men’s slopestyle qualifiers in Laax on Tuesday includes Brock Crouch, Fynn Bullock-Womble, Jake Canter and Dave Retzlaff. Canter, a Silverthorne resident, was the only American male to qualify through to the final, with a score of 77.50. Crouch was the only American male to compete in Laax who also competed in Austria. Gauthier said Crouch was able to compete Tuesday because he was not a part of the U.S. snowboard team “bubble” affected by Mack and Farrell’s positive tests.
The only American women to compete in slopestyle qualifiers Wednesday will be Jamie Anderson, Hailey Langland and Isabella Gomez. That compares with eight American men and seven American women who will drop into the halfpipe competition in Laax. That group includes Summit County residents Jason Wolle, Chase Blackwell and Taylor Gold.
Former Silverthorne resident Chris Corning, a member of the U.S. slopestyle and big air pro team who was the highest-scoring American at the Kreischberg World Cup, is one of several top names not competing in Laax. Corning declined to comment last week when asked about how snowboarding has been for the team amid the pandemic.
Beyond the U.S. team, the International Ski & Snowboard Federation reported two members of the Canadian delegation also tested positive while at the Laax Open. The positive tests put the Canadian men’s slopestyle team into quarantine, meaning no Canadian slopestyle men, including heavy hitters Mark McMorris and Max Parrot, will compete in the Laax Open.
Laax Open men’s and women’s halfpipe qualifiers are scheduled for Thursday. Slopestyle finals are scheduled to be televised live at 5:15 p.m. Friday on the Olympic Channel. Halfpipe finals are scheduled to be broadcast live at 9:45 a.m. Saturday on the Olympic Channel.
Delayed broadcasts also will take place on the NBC Sports Network, with slopestyle scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday and halfpipe slated for 11 a.m. Sunday.
Gauthier said American riders invited to compete in X Games from Jan. 29-31, who have continuously tested negative while in mandatory quarantine in Austria, are expected to compete at the event later this month in Aspen.
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The slopestyle course for X Games received plenty of rave reviews, but it also had flaws. With the same venue set to host the worlds, the course workers wanted to rebuild parts of it to make sure it was “bulletproof” come competition day.