White and Clark take the top spots in Copper
Well, at least it's over and some of these young Vancouver hopefuls can finally get some sleep. Or maybe not. In a Grand Prix final filled with double corks for some and disappointment for others, the first of three stops that will determine the 2010 US Olympic Team is officially over. Much to everyone's surprise in attendance, Frends favorites Luke Mitrani, Mason Aguirre and Kevin Pearce failed to qualify for today's final, but were on hand to watch all the men's and women's finalists take it to the 22 foot pipe.
The women dropped first, and though female pipe riding may not be progressing quite as fast as their double-hucking counterparts, there was some technical trickery by the likes of Ellery Hollingsworth, Soko Yamaoka, Gretchen, Kelly, and most notably young Maddy Schaffrick. As one of the only women in history to link up an alley-oop frontside spin into a switch backside spin, Maddy cemented herself as the leader of the pack of the next generation of women's halfpipe riding. Keep your eyes peed for this young lass.
The top three spots were held down by Soko Yamaoka whose gigantic first hit frontside airs caught the attention of the 1,000 or so spectators lining the deck and huddled a the bottom of the pipe. In second place, Gretchen Bleiler, another Olympic favorite who we will most likely see on the podium with an American flag draped off of her shoulders come February. Kelly Clark continuously gets better, and she proved that today with a first place finish and the satisfaction of knowing that after two more Grand Prix stops in Mammoth and Park City, she will most likely be named to the US Team and in my opinion, is the overall favorite to take home her second gold.
The men's first finals heat was frustrating, for both the fans and the riders, as only four riders put down solid runs, but it was Heat number two that would determine who the top three gentlemen would be.
[singlepic id=1992 w=320 h=240 float=left]Ryo Aono went the biggest of any rider today in his first run with a 20-foot plus first hit frontside lien and then continued to tear apart each and every wall on his jaunt to the bottom, but it was his last hit double cork attempt that took him down. A buttcheck on the lip form 15 feet looks as bad as it sounds; maybe worse, as Ryo was taken down in a sled and could not compete in Heat number two. However, I believe that it is safe to say that if Ryo had landed that run, he would most definitely have been in the top three at the end of the day.
Notable runs were put down by former Euro über grom Freddie Austbo. The kid hasn't skipped a beat and it was good to see Freddie getting after it again. Norway's Tore Holvik was linking some serious bangers together, but unfortunately, failed to put down a solid overhead double cork which put him out of contention for the podium.
Per usual, Jack Mitrani was going ballistic on his first hit backside airs while fellow Frends Scotty Lago and Danny Davis (who were two of my favorites going into the event) had some trouble putting down their multiple cork tens. Also of note is the fact that Greg Bretz killed it, and landed his first front ten double cork of all time (I may have made that up). But in the end, it was Zack Black (yeah, that's right) who stomped a solid third place run that had the crowd going wild. The kid goes gigantic, and he does backside sevens in the pipe. He's like a mini Elijah Teter, and that's a very good thing. Zack took the number three spot while the second and third placings were identical to yesterday's qualifiers.
Louie Vito took second place with solid back to back double cork tens and Shaun White, who is seemingly unbeatable going into this Olympic year, took the top spot. So, we're officially off to the races.
The first Grand Prix is a wrap, but we'll be back with more coverage of tonight's Paul Mitchell Progression Session night exhibition ASAP. I really hope I don't have to write about more frickin' double corks. Keep checking back to snowboardermag.com for all the Grand Prix coverage from Copper Mountain, Colorado.
2010 Copper Grand Prix Halfpipe Results
Copper Mountain, CO – Dec 12, 2009
1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA, 47.00
2. Louie Vito, Sandy, UT, 45.60
3. Zack Black, Breckenridge, CO, 44.10
4. Fredrik Austbo, Norway, 41.20
5. JJ Thomas, Golden, CO, 41.10
6. Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 40.00
7. Steve Fisher, Breckenridge, CO, 39.40
8. Tore-V Holvik, Norway, 34.80
9. Ryo Aono, Japan, 34.00
10. Jack Mitrani, Mammoth, CA, 28.80
1. Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, VT, 44.50
2. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 42.60
3. Soko Yamaoka, Japan, 40.20
4. Quera Castellet, Spain, 30.50
5. Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, VT, 35.80
6. Madeline Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, Co, 35.50
7. Holly Crawford, Australia, 24.00
8. Clair Bidez, Minturn, CO, 13.60
–Words & Photos T. Bird