Steamboat Springs Tyler Jewell, who lived in Steamboat Springs leading up to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, is one step closer to making a return trip after finishing fourth at a World Cup event in Kreischberg, Austria.
Jewell represented the United States at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Italy and led the U.S. Snowboarding Team’s results at Wednesday’s event. Chris Klug, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, was fifth in the event, and Adam Smith was 18th.
In California, Steamboat halfpipe snowboarder Maddy Schaffrick continued to make her case for an Olympic spot with a sixth-place finish at the 2010 U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain.
“Tyler has put himself in a pretty good position,” said Thedo Remmelink, Jewell’s former coach and the head Alpine snowboarding coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “There are still two qualifiers left, so anything can happen. But this finish puts him and Chris at the front of the pack.”
Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson won the race. Austrian rider Andreas Prommegger claimed the second slot, and his teammate Benjamin Karl was third in front of the American riders.
Steamboat Springs’ Justin Reiter also raced, but he missed a gate near the bottom of the course and was disqualified.
“I talk with Justin just about every day. He is very happy with the way he is riding right now, but there is a lot of pressure on these guys,” Remmelink said. “I think he’s trying to do too much right now. He’s trying to give it that little extra effort, but he just needs to trust his riding and race.”
Remmelink said the American riders were under a lot of pressure as they try to make the cut for the 2010 Winter Olympics in February in Vancouver, British Columbia. Remmelink is optimistic that the 2010 U.S. Olympic Alpine Snowboarding Team will have two men, but nothing is certain. Right now, Jewell and Klug are closing in on those spots — but two events remain, and nobody knows for sure how the United States will allocate its Olympic team spots.
The Americans are scheduled to travel Jan. 17 to Nendaz, Sweden, for an event, and then wrap up the qualifying Jan. 21 in Canada at Stoneham. The teams will be named after those events.
In California, Schaffrick qualified fifth Tuesday and ended up placing sixth in the finals Wednesday with runs that included a backside air, a cork frontside 720, an alley-oop 360 and a switchback 720.
“This is another step towards the Olympics for Maddy,” said Spencer Tamblyn, lead pro-am freestyle coach for the Winter Sports Club. “She rode really well and landed both runs. She just didn’t have the amplitude that she needed. Still, sixth place in this event is exceptional.”
Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark won the event, which Tamblyn said was one of the most competitive he’s seen, with a score of 48.40 out of 50. Hannah Teter was second, and Australian rider Holly Crawford was third. Americans Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight placed fourth and fifth.
On the men’s side, Matt Ladley qualified in the 12th spot for the men’s finals and placed 13th in Wednesday’s event.
Danny Davis surprised Olympic champion Shaun White by slipping past him in the finals with a score of 49.20 out of a possible 50. Tamblyn said he thought the score may be the highest awarded at a Grand Prix event. Scott Lago was third, Louie Vito was fourth and Elijah Teter was fifth.
The riders will get a couple of days off before another super-pipe event at Mammoth Mountain this weekend. Qualifying takes place Friday, and the finals will be Saturday. Park City, Utah, will host the final two Olympic qualifiers from Jan. 20 to 23.