Gmeiner among skiing's best

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Gina Gmeiner returned to the halfpipe last weekend with a pair of top results during a NorAm freeskiing event at the Park City Mountain Resort.

"It was my first competition since I blew out my knee," Gmeiner said. "Skiing is such a big part of my life, and it felt really good just to get back into the pipe."

Gmeiner was thrilled with her results but said they were secondary simply to getting to compete again.

She injured her knee last March while preparing for the Maverick's Superpipe Challenge in Steamboat.

She spent the past nine months rehabilitating her knee and thinking about her return.

That return became reality Sunday when she dropped into the halfpipe in Park City for the first of two NorAm freeskiing events.

Canadian rider Dania Assaly won the first event with a score of 73.4. Fellow Canadian Sarah Burke was second at 72.6, and Gmeiner finished third with a score of 61.8.

"It was just so much fun to be on the podium with Sarah Burke," Gmeiner said. "She's the biggest name in women's freeskiing right now, and I was just excited to be up there with her."

Two days later, on Tuesday, the local freeskier got her chance to stand next to Burke again.

Burke won the second halfpipe event by netting 75.2 points. Gmeiner was second at 74.6 points, and Assaly was third with 71.8 points.

Gmeiner said the NorAm events, the first of their kind in the United States, were important for the progress of freeskiing.

She said the events give the sport more international credibility, and she is hoping that the high level of competition will draw new fans to the sport.

She said the top women were doing 540s, and Burke and Assaly did 720s in their runs.

Gmeiner continues to rehabilitate her knee and work to improve in the halfpipe.

She will compete in the U.S. Freeskiing Open on Jan. 19 in Vail and hopes to qualify for the X Games.

Her top finishes at the NorAm events have earned Gmeiner the right to compete in the World Championships, which will be held in Ruka, Finland, in March.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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