Bellevue’s Kaitlyn Farrington, 24, left no doubt about making the 2014 U.S. Olympic snowboard half-pipe team when she won the fifth and final qualifying event Sunday, Jan. 19, at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
Farrington, having placed fourth in three of the four previous qualifiers, pulled out all the stops and won Sunday’s qualifier on the Mammoth Unbound run with a score of 91.40 for 1,000 qualifying points.
Kaitlyn’s bold victory over three-time Olympian Kelly Clark, 30, of West Dover, Vt. (90.40 points for sec-ond place) clinched a first-ever Olympic berth for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team rider during the final competition of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix series.
Clark had won all four previous Olympic qualifiers this winter including the two staged Friday at Mam-moth Mountain. Farrington placed fourth and sixth in Friday’s qualifiers and seemed in a tight race with two-time Olympian Gretchen Bleiler, 32, of Aspen, Colo. for the final berth.
But Farrington’s victory Sunday was decisive, de-nying Olympic silver medalist Bleiler her third Olym-pic trip. Bleiler placed ninth in the final qualifier. En-tering Sunday’s final competition, Farrington had 1,900 qualifying points and Bleiler 1,860.
Farrington’s winning run consisted of: Straight air, backside 900, alley-540 pop tart, switch backside 720, backside 540 and frontside 720, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) News Bureau.
She told the USSA, “I don’t know what happened but I couldn’t be happier to have landed my first run today because that’s just what I wanted to do. I knew if I landed a clean run that I could do well in this contest. So today I just came up having fun and just wanted to land.
“I was definitely thinking that Kelly (Clark) was going to win and take over, but I was really surprised that I won. I can’t wait to go to Sochi. I’m excited that I made it.”
Clark was the 2002 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist and also the winner of four X Games superpipe gold medals.
Mammoth Mountain has played an historic role in the history of Olympic snowboarding, playing host to the original trials that sent athletes to the 1998 Olym-pic debut of snowboarding.
In addition to Olympic qualification, athletes have been competing for a total of $500,000 in cash prizes throughout the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix tour, including a $10,000 bonus for Kelly Clark, the overall halfpipe winner of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Tour.
The four-woman U.S. Olympic halfpipe team will consist of Clark, Farrington, reigning world champion Arielle Gold, 17, of Steamboat Springs, Colo. and Han-nah Teter, 26, of Belmont, Vt. Farrington and Gold are first-time Olympians.
Arielle Gold, who entered with 2,220 qualifying points, also secured her Sochi spot Sunday with a fifth-place finish. She will join her brother Taylor Gold, 20, on the Olympic halfpipe team.
Hannah Teter finished third in the electrifying final and 13-year-old prodigy Chloe Kim was fourth. Kim entered with 2,400 qualifying points, second behind Clark, but she is Olympic ineligible because of her age.
“I knew if I landed a clean run that I could do well in this contest.”
The formal naming of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team by the United States Olympic Committee is set for Jan. 27.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced the nomination of 13 halfpipe and slopestyle snow-boarding athletes Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix.
Slopestyle snowboarding will be contested in the Olympic Winter Games for the first time ever in Sochi. The five event qualifying series came down to the final stop at Mammoth Mountain, with all but two spots de-cided during the final event weekend.
Mike Jankowski, Head Halfpipe and Slopestyle Coach of U.S. Snowboarding, said, “We saw some amazing performances by these riders with a blend of veterans and newcomers landing next-level runs. To have nine of 11 spots come down to the final weekend of qualifying shows the true depth of U.S. Snowboard-ing. We're taking an outstanding team to Sochi that's ready to bring home those medals.”
The U.S. Olympic men’s halfpipe team consists of Greg Bretz, 23, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; Danny Davis, 25, of Truckee, Calif.; Taylor Gold, 20, of Steam-boat Springs, Colo.; and Shaun White, 27, of Carlsbad, Calif. Bretz and two-time Olympic gold medalist White are past Olympians, while Gold and Davis are first timers.
SVSEF Gold Teamer Chase Josey, 18, entered the final Mammoth Mountain qualifiers in ninth place based on qualifying points and stayed about right there—finishing seventh, ninth and eighth in his heats.
Americans qualifying in the new Olympic event of slopestyle snowboarding include:
Men: Shaun White; Sage Kotsenburg, 20, of Park City, Utah; and Chas Guldemond, 26, of Reno, Nev.
Women: Jamie Anderson, 23, of S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and Ty Walker, 16, of Stowe, Vt.
The USSA is expected to announce additional nomi-nations in slopestyle pending final quota allocations in the coming week, as well as for other snowboarding events.
Slopestyle snowboarding will make its debut as the opening event of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.