Teter, Bleiler ready to rule superpipe again
Aspen Times staff writer
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” For years they were the courteous rivals who shared nothing more than podiums. Now they swap clothes, trade e-mails and catch up on the phone.
What brought Gretchen Bleiler and Hannah Teter together as friends was last year’s Winter Olympics, where trying to outdo each other in the halfpipe suddenly became secondary to competing for their home country.
Hours before they dropped in for the most important halfpipe runs of their young lives, the pair sneaked away from the crowds and TV cameras at the base of the Italian Alps and took a chairlift up the mountain for some stress-free powder turns.
“We were like, ‘Let’s do this and have fun together and represent the U.S.,'” Teter said Wednesday of that fated day in Bardonecchia, Italy. “We actually got lost on the mountain for a bit. Then we made it to finals and both did pretty well.”
That’s an understatement. Under sunny skies, Teter spun her way to Olympic gold, while Bleiler – who grew up in Snowmass Village and now lives in Aspen – took the silver. Afterward, both found themselves linked together in the midst of a media swarm.
Among other things, Bob Costas interviewed the two together in NBC’s Olympic studios, and they were asked to serve as the official starters of the Daytona 500.
Now, a year after both pulled out of the Winter X Games to focus on the Olympics, both are back at Buttermilk ready to renew their rivalry – but under markedly different terms.
“Now we’re buddies,” said Bleiler, who was the top qualifier Wednesday night with an unbeatable first run score of 88. “Now we trade. I was wearing a sweater from Oakley, and she was wearing some sweatpants, and we both really liked each other’s clothes, so we’re switching. We’re pals. We do stuff now that girlfriends do.”
“For a while, it was like me and Gretchen were some of the biggest rivals because she would win, then I would win,” said Teter, a Belmont, Vt., native who rebounded from a hard crash in practice to qualify fourth. “That made it tough between us. We still liked each other, but we weren’t necessarily good friends. That’s changed.”
Bleiler is quick to admit that, more than anyone, Teter provides consistent motivation for her as a competitor. The hometown favorite won the 2003 Winter X superpipe final, then could only stand by and watch the next year, when knee surgery kept her out of competition and Teter cruised to the gold.
Bleiler reclaimed her Winter X crown in 2005, as part of a string of 16 straight halfpipe finals where she finished no lower than second. Teter was her toughest competition during that time. The two slugged it out in last winter’s Olympic qualifiers, with Bleiler winning five out of six before ending up second to Teter in Italy.
After the Olympics, Teter had surgery on her left knee and only returned to the snow last month. She looked tentative in her first run Wednesday night but then cut loose in her second run with a huge 900 that moved her from 10th to fourth.
Bleiler, meanwhile, looked routinely dominant after opening the season with uncharacteristic showings (seventh, then 20th) in her first two contests. Those results are partly attributable to the new run she has been working on, she said.
“It’s been hard to pull it together like I have in the past few years, but I think that’s what happens when you start pushing yourself to the next level,” Bleiler said. “You don’t always get the top results. Here, I know the run I want, and I pretty much locked it in [Tuesday] night. I’m more confident for this contest than any other contest I’ve entered this year.”
She also said it helps to have Teter back in the pipe.
“When she hasn’t been at a contest this year, or the end of last year, I just felt like my biggest competitor was missing,” she said. “When she’s here, I feel more motivated to go out there. I think we really do push each other.”
Both agreed that they’re in much better head space this year, without the Olympics right around the corner. Teter pulled out of last year’s X Games to rest her aching knee, while Bleiler crashed hard during a practice run, then dropped out of the event citing exhaustion.
The duo’s absence made for a watered-down final won by Kelly Clark – who nearly joined Teter and Bleiler on the Olympic podium, if not for a crash at the end of a brilliant final run.
“It’s way more mellow this year,” Teter said. “We’re all just having a good time and being friends and throwing down our tricks. It’s been good.”
“I feel so much better this year,” Bleiler added. “This time last year, right before qualifiers, I was just feeling exhausted and kind of pulled around in 8 million directions. I’m really excited. It feels like everything is finally coming together.”
(Top 10 advance to tonight’s final)
1. Gretchen Bleiler 88.00
2. Elena Hight 80.33
3. Manuela Pesko 78.00
4. Hannah Teter 75.33
5. Torah Bright 74.00
6. Kelly Clark 71.00
7. Mercedes Nicoll 69.00
8. Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas 66.66
9. Lindsey Jacobellis 64.66
10. Sophie Rodriguez 64.33
11. Molly Aguirre 62.33
12. Dominique Vallee 61.33
13. Paulina Ligocka 56.66
14. Junko Asazuma 56.66
15. Meg Pugh 53.00
16. Tricia Byrnes 48.00
17. Clair Bidez 44.00
18. Leslie Glenn 42.00
Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The dance team traveled this past weekend to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, for the high school national championships, winning the intermediate varsity pom division on Sunday.