Greg Bretz upsets Shaun White in Olympic qualifier
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Greg Bretz out of Mammoth Lakes outgunned Olympic gold medalist Shaun White in the halfpipe snowboarding final Saturday, taking the top spot in the first Olympic qualifier at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships.
White and U.S. Snowboarding rookie Taylor Gold of Steamboat Springs, Colo., sealed the U.S. sweep in second and third during the first of the five Olympic qualifiers.
White fell during his first run and showed signs of injury during a more timid and imperfect second run. He did not compete in the next day’s slopestyle competition.
Bretz became the first to beat White in a halfpipe final in almost four years.
“I’m so stoked it’s an Olympic qualifier and I was able to come out on top,” Bretz said. “I just try to ride for myself and stay away from what other people are doing and it ended up working out and I’m super stoked about it.”
Bretz’s winning run consisted of a frontside double cork 1080, cab double cork 1080, frontside 900, backside 900, frontside 1080, and cab 1080.
Louie Vito was fourth, followed by Scotty James, Ayumu Hirano and Danny Davis of Truckee.
Selection to the Olympic snowboarding team will be made from athletes who have a top-four finish against the entire field in one of five selection events. Those athletes will be ranked with their best two of five qualifying events using World Cup scoring (1,000-point scale) comparing only USA athletes.
The top athletes in the Olympic qualification hunt are Bretz, White, Gold, Vito, Davis, Ben Ferguson and Benji Farrow.
Next, the halfpipe men travel to Copper Mountain for the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix on Dec. 21-22 for the second Olympic qualifier.
Kelly Clark second in qualifier
On Saturday, Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark edged a little closer to her fourth Olympic Winter Games when she placed second in the halfpipe snowboarding finals. It was the top U.S. result in the Olympic qualifying event at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships.
Australian Torah Bright won the halfpipe final, while 13-year-old rookie Chloe Kim of La Palma, Calif., finished third. Kim is not yet eligible for the Olympics at her age.
Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs, Colo., finished just off the podium in fourth, just a couple hours after her brother Taylor Gold finished third in the men’s halfpipe final.
With her podium finish, Clark is now in a strong position going into the next four qualification events.
“I’m so happy with my second-place finish,” said Clark, whose top run consisted of a frontside air, backside 540, frontside 1080, cab 720, frontside 540 and frontside 720. “It’s really about getting those points to qualify for the Olympics at these events. I thought Torah rode amazing and coming in second to her is a good day any day.”
Clark will be looking to link back-to-back 1080s going into the Sochi Games.
The top snowboarding athletes in the Olympic qualification hunt are Clark, then Gold, Kaitlyn Farrington, Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight of South Lake Tahoe.