Photo by John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs snowboarder Josh Wylie rips around a gate while qualifying for the Race to the Cup last year at Howelsen Hill. Wylie made the finals of a World Cup race in Austria on Wednesday.
World Cup veteran snowboarder Justin Reiter knows what it feels like to make a World Cup final.
The U.S. Ski Team veteran and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club member, who is at home recovering from knee surgery, will have to wait until next season for his chance to regain that feeling. But he understands how his good friend Josh Wylie is feeling after placing 14th in a World Cup slalom race.
"It's like breaking down a wall and pushing through," Reiter said. "It just proves that you should be there, and a big part of snowboard racing comes from believing in yourself."
The slalom race in Kreischberg, Austria, on Wednesday marked the first time that Wylie, who was a member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, has qualified for a World Cup final.
Italy's Roland Haldi beat the former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club racer in the first round, but his former coach, Thedo Remmelink, said it was a benchmark finish for the young snowboarder. Wylie left the club at the end of the 2006-07 season to focus on school. He returned to the sport this season but has been based near his home in Bennington, Vt.
"His roots are here with the Winter Sports Club, so I'm very happy to see him doing well," Remmelink said. "I think this is a huge confidence-builder for him."
Switzerland's Simon Schoch won the race by defeating Slovania's Rok Flander in the finals. Wylie was the top American finisher and was followed by Tyler Jewell in 18th, Adam Smith in 21st and Ben Fairchild in 40th.
Michelle Gorgone, another former member of the Winter Sports Club, was the top American finisher in the women's slalom race at fourth. Steamboat's Erica Mueller blew out on the bottom part of the course in qualifying and didn't place.
Amelie Kober, of Germany, defeated Japan's Tomoka Takeuchi in the finals to win the women's race.
The slalom race came on the heels of a parallel giant slalom race. Siegfried Grabner, of Austria, won the men's race, and his Austrian teammate Doris Guenther won the women's event. Gorgone was the top American in 13th place, and Mueller was 22nd on the women's side. Jewell was the top American in the men's race, placing seventh. He was followed by Chris Klug in eighth, Zachary Kay in 19th and Wylie in 22nd.
Most of the World Cup riders are gearing up for the upcoming World Championships in Gangwon, South Korea. Those events are scheduled Jan. 15 to 25.