X Games a big chance for local snowboarders

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— It’s not all about the Olympics.

Sure, a trip to Sochi, Russia, was a dream for Mick Dierdorff, and he said it was difficult to realize this month that he wouldn’t be part of the U.S. contingent.

The Steamboat Springs snowboard cross racer said the X Games are more than a consolation prize, however. Dierdorff was disappointed he wouldn’t be going to Russia, but nothing lifted his spirits quite like finding out last week that he had been selected for his second career stint in ESPN’s extreme sports extravaganza, set to start Thursday in Aspen.

“This is a huge competition, so I can’t be bummed,” he said. “I”m so happy to be here at the X Games. If I were able to go get a good result, it would be amazing.”

Dierdorff is one of a strong, if small, contingent of Steamboat Springs athletes competing this weekend at the X Games.

The action in the super-pipe could prove an enlightening Olympic preview.

Steamboat’s Arielle Gold will be there on the women’s side, competing a year after she finished third in the event. The women’s pipe is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

For the men, Taylor Gold will be getting his first X Games start, but he’s not much of a rookie anymore after earning a spot on the Olympic team a week ago. Benji Farrow, a former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete, also will compete, along with many of the top threats for Sochi medals. The qualifying round starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and the finals start at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Steamboat snowboarder Nik Baden also has a chance to compete and is an alternate for the men’s snowboard slope-style competition.

For the Golds, the X Games are a big deal but a prelude to Russia.

For Dierdorff, it’s a huge opportunity to improve on a season he said has been good, but not quite good enough.

Things started out great when he qualified fourth in the first World Cup of the season. He ended up 17th, however. He was 27th in the next race, then 25th and 44th in the final two World Cup events. The four all were supposed to factor into the selections for the U.S. Olympic team. While the decision isn’t final yet, Dierdorff isn’t holding out hope.

“I definitely had high hopes for this year, and I have been happy with the way I’ve been riding,” he said. “I’ve been doing very well at every race so far this year and qualifying well. Unfortunately, I just have been handed an unlucky card a couple times where I got taken out by other riders. That happens in this sport.”

Success in Aspen won’t change any of that, but it could help him forget.

Snowboard cross is back at the X Games after it was left off the Aspen schedule a year ago. Dierdorff last competed in the event in 2010, when he was 16th.

The course at X Games is known for being tough, with huge jumps and fast speeds, perfect for his style, Dierdorff said.

Athletes will race in qualifying runs today, and the finals are set for Friday.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I know I have the capability of getting a big result, and I’m happy to try to lay that down.

“The Olympics have been a big dream of mine, and the X Games have been a big dream, too.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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