VERNON, New Jersey ??вЂќ Teen halfpipe superstar Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA) and snowboardcross world champions Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton, VT) and Seth Wescott (Kingfield, ME) lead a 16-member U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team, subject to U.S. Olympic Commitee approval, following the last Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix qualifier at Mountain Creek.
Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, said the team ??вЂњ introduced following completion of the final Grand Prix halfpipe contest at Mountain Creek resort ??вЂњ will include nine men and seven women.
Three riders competed in previous Olympics (defending 2002 halfpipe gold medalist Kelly Clark, 2002 Olympic silver medalist Danny Kass and Rosey Fletcher, the first American named to the first U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team in 1998). All Olympic nominations submitted by the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding are subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Making history in New Jersey on Sunday, White, 19, swept the five Grand Prix halfpipe contests, and has energized his sport in recent seasons with his creativity and dynamic rides. Jacobellis and Wescott were SBX gold medalists at the 2005 World Championships.
Local Danny Kass, with the enthusiastic support of his hometown crowd, came from behind and delivered an impressive second run Friday night which earned him second place on the Grand Prix podium, and ultimately clinched a spot on the Olympic team.
Andy Finch had the run of his season Sunday morning, also securing the number two spot in the Grand Prix finals and a ticket to Torino with the U.S. Team.
White and Bleiler, who led men’s and women’s qualifiers, narrowly missed selection in 2002.
The 2006 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team (age, hometown, previous Olympics):
Mason Aguirre, 18, Duluth, Minn.
Andy Finch, 24, Fresno, Calif.
Danny Kass, 23, Hamburg, N.J. (2002 Olympics)
Shaun White, 19, Carlsbad, Calif.
Gretchen Bleiler, 24, Aspen/Snowmass Village, Colo.
Kelly Clark, 22, Mount Snow, Vt. (2002)
Elena Hight, 16, Zephyr Cove, Nev.
Hannah Teter, 18, Belmont, Vt.
Jayson Hale, 20, Sierraville, Calif.
Nate Holland, 27, Olympic Valley, Calif.
Jason Smith, 24, Basalt, Colo.
Seth Wescott, 29, Kingfield, Maine
Lindsey Jacobellis, 20, Stratton, Vt.
Tyler Jewell, 28, Sudbury, Mass.
Rosey Fletcher, 30, Girdwood, Alaska (1998, 2002)
Michelle Gorgone, 22, Sudbury, Mass.
Said Mountain Creek Vice President and General Manager Charles Blier, “The excitement and prestige of this event is unparalleled for the resort. Right here in New Jersey the best athletes in American snowboarding competed for the opportunity to represent the nation on the world stage, and we know that this team will bring home the Gold. Mountain Creek is thrilled and honored to have been a part of the pathway to the Olympics, and the fact that our own Danny Kass is headed back to the Olympics is that much sweeter because he made such an impressive showing here at “home”. Everyone at the resort wishes all the athletes the best of luck. We know they’ll conquer the world next.”
“Adding snowboardcross brings an incredibly exciting event to the Olympics, and fortunately, we have many of the best riders the world,” said U.S. Snowboarding Program Director Jeremy Forster. “This is certainly not a one-dimensional Olympic Team. We have a huge legacy to live up to from our success in 2002, but I think everyone will see next month that this team is certainly as strong, maybe even stronger.”
Shaun Palmer (South Lake Tahoe, CA) would have qualified for the Olympic team with a second place in a World Cup, but suffered an injury earlier this month in training in Europe that will keep him out of competition.