Tuesday, November 14, 2000
Steamboat Springs The Olympic Games are still more than a year away, but 27-year-old snowboarder Shannon Dunn has already made plans to go back to school.
Well, sort of.
With the first event of the 2001 Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix less than a month away, Dunn has decided to limit her competition schedule this winter and concentrate on learning some of the newest tricks in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games.
She also wants to stay on snowboarding's cutting edge.
"It's hard to learn new stuff when you are always competing," Dunn said. "This is not an important year for me in terms of the Olympics. I want to step back and learn."
Dunn said the sport is evolving at an incredible pace with riders performing tricks that were unheard of just a few years ago.
"The guys are going crazy," Dunn said. "The tricks are more flippy."
Today, she said it is not uncommon for riders, mainly the guys, to perform 720s and 900s upside down something that was rare in the past.
Part of the change in the sport comes from a new breed of half-pipes called super-pipes.
"They are a lot bigger and the transitions are wider," Dunn said. "They feel like they are deeper."
Dunn said the top snowboarders don't feel the need to hold back and can throw even bigger tricks.
"You can go a lot bigger and you don't have to worry about hitting the deck," Dunn said.
This year, all four of the Grand Prix events will be held in super-pipes compared to just two events a year ago. Dunn said the smaller half-pipes could become a thing of the past.
The new pipes will also bring an avalanche of new tricks. So Dunn plans to take the next few months to keep up with the changes in the sport. She hopes the extra classwork will land her back in the 2002 Olympic Games and keep her at the top of the sport.
Dunn earned the bronze medal in 1998 in Shiga Kogen, Japan. She was the top American finishing behind Olympic gold medalist Nicola Thost of Germany and silver medalist Stine Brun of Norway.
But just because Dunn is stepping back doesn't mean that she will stop competing altogether this season. The Steamboat Olympian is already looking forward to defending her Grand Prix half-pipe title and plans on hitting most of the major events this winter.
Dunn did say that she will miss the first of four Grand Prix events. That contest is scheduled to take place at Okemo Mountain in Vermont Dec. 15 through 17.
"Vermont is a long way to go for a competition," Dunn said. "I don't think I will travel just to do it."
Dunn, however, did say she fully expects to compete at Grand Prix events in Breckenridge (Jan. 5-7) and Mammoth Mountain, Calif. (Feb. 8-11). The Grand Prix will also include the 2001 X-Nix U.S. Championship finals in March.
"Every year I sit down with a calendar and try to plan my winters," Dunn said. "Then I try to stick to it."
Dunn said it is possible to compete and maintain a schedule of outside events such as doing photo shoots and filming. But she said it's very demanding. In an effort to keep from burning out, she attempts to limit herself each year and focus doing one or the other.
The Grand Prix will enter its fifth season and has become one of the most respected snowboard tours in the United States. Riders will compete for $400,000 in cash, and the overall winners take home a new Chevy truck. The events will be televised by NBC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2 this season.
Last year, Dunn won the women's overall title, and Jasey Jay Anderson topped the men's results. Dunn lives in Encinitas, Calif., in the summer and moves to Lake Tahoe in the winter.
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