Meridian Star

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January 11, 2014

Weather cancels Olympic snowboard qualifiers

BRECKENRIDGE — BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) — Snowboarder Jamie Anderson held nothing back in a slopestyle qualifying run earlier in the week. She did the same arguing that the performance should count Saturday.

Race officials at the U.S. Grand Prix decided to cancel the snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle finals because of deteriorating snow conditions and dangerously high wind. Anderson and some of the other riders in the field were hoping that qualifying runs would be taken into consideration to determine places and, along with it, points toward making the Olympic team. But the jury decided that those runs wouldn't be used.

The verdict doesn't exactly help Shaun White, either. Had officials decided to consider the qualifying runs in halfpipe and slopestyle, it would've bolstered White's case in making the squad for the Sochi Games in both events. White was solid in each qualifying event.

That leaves two more competitions next week in Mammoth, Calif., for U.S. athletes to secure a spot on the Olympic squad. Some of the riders were upset about the news that qualifying wouldn't count, saying they planned to protest. Anderson, who qualified first and could have secured her spot on the team had the preliminary results stood, was quite agitated.

"Everyone had the same conditions to deal with. It's fair," Anderson said. "That's just a part of snowboarding and nature — it's not always going to be perfect. You have to make do with what you can.

"I don't think they (officials) made a great choice."

The day before, heavy snow forced the cancellation of the skiing slopestyle event and the qualifying marks became the official results in accordance to the International Ski Federation's Freestyle rules. But FIS technical delegate Jim Sidorchuk said there are different rules governing snowboarding events.

"Considerations are taken on every aspect of the competition and competitors and situations," he said.

High wind was the culprit for the cancellation. Bill Van Gilder, the technical adviser for the event, estimated the wind was blowing consistently at 30 to 40 mph, with gusts of up to 70 mph. The wind also eroded away the snow inside the halfpipe.

"I would not send an athlete in those conditions, nor would any athlete make that decision to put themselves in that situation," Van Gilder said.

With nearly a foot of snow expected Sunday, trying to stage the events that day was going to be difficult. There is a skiing halfpipe event tentatively scheduled for Sunday — weather permitting, of course.

"While it's disappointing to have had to cancel or postpone these events, it's imperative that we have a safe and fair competition for the athletes," said Jeremy Forster, the snowboarding director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA). "The decisions made by the separate FIS juries were made fairly and by the rules of the respective sports."

For the moment, the snowboard slopestyle and halfpipe events are considered cancelled. But there is some discussion about possibly keeping the qualifying scores and just switching the finals over to Mammoth. With two events already scheduled that week, it might take too much of a demanding toll on the riders. USSA could possibly use four events to select the snowboarding team instead of the scheduled five.

Mike Jankowski, the U.S. freeskiing and snowboarding coach, understands the frustration. That said, he didn't think making the qualifying runs count was the solution.

"We made this process to pick the Olympic team the most fair way possible, that's going to allow the best riders to represent the U.S.," Jankowski said. "To make that happen is to have the riders compete in a final, throw down their best runs and let the judges score the best runs and use the results that way. That's going to give us the most accurate team.

"Really, it's going to give us the best team, having our athletes compete in a finals situation."


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