White, Bleiler secure berth in Turin Games | AspenTimes.com

White, Bleiler secure berth in Turin Games

Aspen Times Staff and The Associated Press
Gretchen Bleiler of Snowmass Village soars at the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix Halfpipe Finals in Vernon, N.J. Sunday. Bleiler, who finished first, earned a spot on the 2006 Olympic Snowboard Team. (Tim Larsen/AP)

Shaun White and Snowmass Village’s Gretchen Bleiler, who both won consecutive Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix halfpipe competitions Sunday at Mountain Creek, N.J., are headed to Turin. White and Bleiler highlight a list of 16 boarders – nine men and seven women – chosen by U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt, an Aspen native, to head to Turin in February. The list includes Basalt snowboardcross standout Jason Smith who, along with Bleiler, is heading to his first Games.

“Making the U.S. Olympic Team has been a dream and goal of mine ever since I was a little girl,” Bleiler said in an Aspen Skiing Co. press release. “To have finally made this dream come true is unbelievable to say the least. I am just very honored and proud.”Bleiler, 24, secured her spot on the Olympic team with four wins in five Grand Prix events. She has won superpipe gold medals in ESPN’s Winter X Games twice (2003 and 2005) and has also been crowned U.S. Open champion twice (2003 and 2005). Smith, 26, won his first-ever snowboardcross in the season’s first event in Kronplatz, Italy. He will prepare for the Olympics by competing in Winter X Games Ten, which kick off Thursday at Buttermilk.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have grown up doing what I love, snowboarding,” Smith said in a Skico press release. “Now I get the chance to represent snowboarding and my country in front of the world at the Olympic games. It doesn”t get much better than that.” White, who needed just one run to post a score (45.5) high enough to win, became the first rider in the 10-year history of the Grand Prix to win every halfpipe contest of the season, while Bleiler took four out of five. Hannah Teter, who is also heading to Turin, upset Bleiler’s bid for the sweep at the opening event in Breckenridge.

White started off his run with a lofty indy and went into a corked backside 900 to a frontside 1080 to a Cab 1080 into a frontside 900 before finishing with a McTwist. Bleiler dropped in to a crippler, then a backside 540, a frontside 900, a method and a frontside 540.”Today I feel like I rode my absolute best,” Bleiler said. “It’s the first time all year I’ve thrown a nine on my third hit. I’m also working on a Michaelchuk.”The event was originally scheduled for Saturday but was postponed because of high winds.

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