Aussies at Copper Grand Prix

December 14th, 2009


Copper Mountain Grand Prix – Halfpipe
Image – Shaun White in first, Louie Vito in second and Zack Black in third. Photo:: Getty Images

By Paul Colby

The benchmark for the run to the Olympics has been set with the first US Snowboarding halfpipe Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado just wrapped up. If you want to stand on the podium in Vancouver 2010, then this event just showed you what you needed to do. The Copper mountain halfpipe has been a hive of action for over a week, being the first halfpipe of Olympic standard in North America, and the world’s best snowboarders have been dialling in their tricks and working out who has what in their run. The Grand Prix series is where the USA picks it’s Olympic halfpipe team, and the rest of the world competes to test their bag of tricks and feel out the competition. If this event is any indication of the level of halfpipe riding, then it looks like the standard just keeps getting higher.

In the women’s halfpipe event it appears that two people were setting the pace, Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark both from the US. Gretchen finished number one in qualifying, however Kelly managed to take out the finals with her first run that included the mandatory straight air, backside five, front nine, back to back sevens and finished off with a front five for a score of 44.5. Gretchen failed to continue her qualification form with a fall on her first run, she pulled it together for the second run with a score of 42.5. Which was not enough to over take Kelly, but landed her in second spot.

With the men’s it appears that unless you have back to back double corks in your repertoire, you are just making up the numbers. Shaun White (USA) and Louie Vito (USA) were the only riders to land the now infamous back to back trick in their runs, with Shaun having the edge over Louie in both qualifications and the final. Shaun’s final run included a lein air, backside nine, back to back double cork 1080s, frontside 720 and a cab 1080 to finish off with a score of 47. Louie did push Shaun in the finals by including back to back double corks and a backside nine into a frontside 1080 in his run, ending up with 45.6 and second place. The standard in the men’s final was clearly being pushed to the edge, everybody who was anybody was trying to land something new with many coming unstuck. It proves the heat is on for the Olympics and the fire is obviously there.

Apart from double corks the big surprise from the event was the level of riding from a collection of somewhat unknown riders who were certainly pushing the bigger names. Zach Black (USA) and Soko Yamaoka (JPN) were unexpected competitors to see sitting in third place.

Australian’s Nathan Johnston and Holly Crawford also both made the finals in front of many big names, showing that their hard work is paying off and on the road to the Olympics it is still anyone’s game. Nathan crashed both his runs attempting a double cork on his first hit and Holly crashed out of both runs having troubles with her front nine mute. If she can start continually sticking those tricks in her run she will be one of only a few girls doing that trick with a solid grab and it will elevate her as a podium chance everytime she stomps her run. Australia’s Torah Bright failed to make the finals.

Kelly Clark in first, Gretchen Bleiler in second and Soko Yamaoka in third. Photo:: Getty Images

Copper Mountain, CO – Dec. 12
Men’s Halfpipe finals

  1. Shaun White, USA 47.00
  2. Louie Vito, USA 45.60
  3. Zachary Black, USA 44.10
  4. Fredrik Austbo, NOR 41.20
  5. Jarret Thomas, USA 41.10
  6. Gregory Bretz, USA 40.00
  7. Steven Fisher, USA 39.40
  8. Tore-V Holvik, NOR 34.80
  9. Ryo Aono, JPN 34.00
  10. Jack Mitrani, USA 28.80
  11. Elijah Teter, USA 22.10
  12. Charles Reid, CAN 18.80
  13. Danny Davis, USA 18.80
  14. Scott Lago, USA 16.00
  15. Dustin Craven, CAN 9.00
  16. Nathan Johnston, AUS 8.60

Copper Mountain, CO – Dec. 12
Women’s Halfpipe finals

  1. Kelly Clark, USA 44.50
  2. Gretchen Bleiler, USA 42.60
  3. Soko Yamaoka, JPN 40.20
  4. Queralt Castellet, SPA 39.50
  5. Ellery Hollindsworth, USA 35.80
  6. Maddy Schaffrick USA 35.50
  7. Holly Crawford, AUS 24.00
  8. Clair Bidez, USA 13.60