Dunn makes U.S. team

1998 Oympic bronze medalist secures place after winning Grand Prix event

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— Since Shannon Dunn took a bronze in the 1998 Olympics, she has won every Chevy Truck U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe competition she has entered. For Dunn, that meant taking home a truck or $10,000 check for every Grand Prix she has won.

But her biggest award out of the Grand Prix might have come Sunday, when she won her second straight Grand Prix event of the season to secure a spot on the U.S. team for the 2002 Olympics.

"It's a huge weight off my shoulders. It's just good," Dunn said. "I don't have to worry about it too much. Qualifying is the most intense process. Now I can focus on training and practicing for the Olympics."

On Friday, the former Steamboat Springs resident won the first Grand Prix event in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on her first run with a score of 37.6. She followed it up Sunday, when her first run again took top honors when it registered a 38.2.

The two best places riders take in the five Grand Prix events will determine the U.S. team for the 2002 Olympics. Dunn's run for a spot on the U.S. team ended early when her two finishes made it mathematically impossible for her not to gain a berth on the team.

This year's scenario is much different than the last time Dunn qualified for the Olympics and was unsure of her status as a U.S. team member until right before the games started.

"Everyone was all over the place (in results)," Dunn said. "No one was sure and it came down to the last event and how everyone placed. It was very stressful. We found out who was going to go a week before. There was no preparation time."

But this year Dunn has almost two months to prepare for the Olympics in Park City, Utah. Although Dunn does not need to compete in any more Grand Prix to qualify for the U.S. team, she might do one or two more. Dunn also plans to be in the X Games that will be in Aspen from Jan. 17-20.

At the X Games, Dunn might have the chance to go head to head with Canadian Natasza Zurek, whom Dunn said will bring some of the toughest competition to Park City. And Dunn is looking at her training time to prepare for that caliber of competition.

"My runs were good for last weekend, but not what I can do. I'm pushing myself," Dunn said. "I have all the tricks that I can do, I just have to get back in the pipe and ride for the Olympics where there is more competition from Canada."

On Sunday, Dunn's run of all airs, a McTwist and 720 gave her the first place, even though she said her strongest performance came in her second run that featured a McTwist to a 720 to a switch 540.

Until the Games, Dunn plans to train at Mammoth Mountain and might even come to Steamboat when the super pipe opens.

Last weekend's Grand Prix events will be broadcast at 2 p.m. EDT Dec. 23 on NBC.

To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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