Steamboat Springs At first glance, it might not appear much has changed with the U.S. Snowboarding Team in the past four years.
That’s good news for the United States’ medal aspirations, as snowboarding has proven to be a red, white and blue gold mine since it was introduced into the Olympics in 1998.
Of the 20 snowboarding events ever contested in the games, the United States has won five gold medals and 14 total, more than any other two countries combined.
In 2006, the U.S. won three of the six events.
The face of the squad — at least as far as NBC is concerned — will likely again be the freckly pale mug topped by a wild mane of orange hair belonging to Shaun White. The “Flying Tomato,” perhaps the world’s most recognizable snowboarder, is just 23 and will be back for his second Olympic go-around. He will be riding in the halfpipe competition at the Cypress Mountain competition complex to defend the halfpipe gold medal he won in 2006.
He won’t be the only big name strapping up for the U.S. team again.
Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler went 1-2 in the halfpipe in the 2006 Olympics, and Kelly Clark, the 2002 halfpipe gold medalist, was fourth in 2006. All three will return and should figure in high in the final standings at Cypress Mountain.
Also back for a second go-around is Lindsey Jacobellis, the most accomplished boardercross racer in the sport’s short history. She’s won five of the past six X Games gold medals in the event but is perhaps most famous for a tumble late in the 2006 Olympic boardercross race. Flying over the final jump with a comfortable lead, she attempted a mid-air grab — showing off, essentially — and fell when she landed on the edge of her board. She quickly recovered, but the fall cost her the gold and she had to settle for silver.
Seth Wescott won the men’s snowboard cross in 2006 and will return, as will Chris Klug a bronze medalist from 2002 in the men’s slalom. All told, the United States snowboarding team that will compete will include seven previous Olympic medal winners.
Tyler Jewell and Michelle Gorgone, both of whom trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and got their Olympic feet wet in the 2006 Games, will represent Steamboat. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, who trained with the club, will be making her Olympic debut in boardercross.
Athletes to watch
White is the most recognizable rider in snowboarding thanks to his flaming red hair, high-flying skills and massive exposure that’s made him a regular fixture everywhere from ESPN to his snowboarding video games.
He’ll be back this year to try to win his second Olympic halfpipe snowboarding gold medal.
Hannah Teter returns after winning the women’s halfpipe gold in 2006. Through her career, the 23-year-old Vermont native has had plenty of success. She has six snowboarding World Cup victories since breaking on to the scene nearly a decade ago.
A halfpipe gold medalist in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Clark just missed making it an all-American podium at the 2006 games when she fell on her final run. She still managed to finish fourth in the event. She heads to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the midst of a strong stretch, having won two of the past three World Cup events she’d competed in. She also topped all of her teammates in the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in Park City, Utah, late in January.
Lindsey Jacobellis, 24, has been a dominating force on the women’s World Cup boardercross circuit and was in prime position to win the event during its Olympic debut. A late fall kept her from that dream, however. She’s won the World Championships twice and won 20 World Cup events in just 47 starts.
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, who trained with the Winter Sports Club, burst on to the boardercross women’s snowboarding in 2006 when she made the podium twice on the World Cup circuit and claimed the national championship all in her first season. She’ll be riding in her first Olympic Games this year.
Seth Wescott won the gold medal in the 2006 boardercross event. He’ll try to get back to that level after making just five World Cup podiums in the four years between the games. He was second in a World Cup event in Argentina late last year.
Steamboat Springs Alpine snowboarder Tyler Jewell will compete in his second Olympic Games this year. A strong season last winter and a fourth-place finish in a World Cup event early this season helped Jewell earn his spot on the team. Jewell was 11th at the 2006 Olympics.
Alpine snowboarder Michelle Gorgone trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club after learning the sport in New Hampshire. She will be competing in her second Olympic Games after she was 22nd in the 2006 Olympic giant parallel slalom.
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org