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2008: Success For U.S. Snowboarding
PARK CITY, Utah (April 25) - U.S. Snowboarding had an epic 2008 season with veteran and rookie riders bringing in top performances. Riders like Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, CA), Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, VT), Nick Baumgartner (Iron River, MI), Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA), Louie Vito (Sandy, UT), Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO), Michelle Gorgone (Boston) and Tyler Jewell (Steamboat Springs, CO) were just a few to hit the podium this past year.
"We saw the riders really step it up and succeed this year, which puts us on track for where we want to be in 2010," said U.S. Snowboarding Program Director Jeremy Forster. "We have a super talented group of athletes, coaches, technicians, physical trainers and staff that all work really well together. We're all ready to perform every day. Overall it was a great year for U.S. Snowboarding."
The highlights of the season include:
-Vito won the overall title at the Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix.
-Holland three-peated and Jacobellis won gold at the X Games.
-The team earned five alpine podiums, the best result since '04.
- Baumgartner, an SBX athlete, and Bretz, a halfpipe rider took home their first World Cup wins.
Halfpipe - Bleiler does it again and again
No stranger to success in the halfpipe, Bleiler was back this past season and ready to challenge everyone in the pipe. She started the season strong winning the opening Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Breckenridge, CO. The Breckenridge podium resembled an Olympic reunion as Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT) and Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT), both gold medalists, fell in line behind Bleiler.
In January, Bleiler nailed down her status as queen of the halfpipe when she pulled out a spectacular run of front side 900 melon, back side air, crippler 540, fakey alley-oop, front side 720 and cab 720 to win her third X Games gold. Earlier in the season, Bleiler made her mark in ESPN Magazine history by becoming the first woman to ever grace the cover.
Meanwhile, Vito went bigger and better in the pipe, making the transition from up and comer to a force to be reckoned with. Vito started his road to overall Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix champion when he won the halfpipe competition at the Tamarack, ID, stop of the tour. It was a fierce battle for the title as Vito had to beat out two exceptionally talented riders, Steve Fisher (Breckenridge, CO) and Elijah Teter (South Lake Tahoe, CA), to walk away with the prize. But he was up for the challenge, throwing down his best tricks in the final stop of the Chevy Grand Prix in Killington, VT where he not only won the title but also a brand new E85 Ethanol Chevy Avalanche.
Clair Bidez (Minturn, CO) and Ellery Hollingsworth (Stratton, VT) also saw a great deal of success during the Grand Prix tour. They showed their strength as two of the emerging female powerhouses with U.S. Snowboarding. Each landed on the podium at the final two Grand Prix stops.
"Louie, Clair and Ellery have moved up to the pro ranks and have really worked hard to be in the mix and get on the podium on a consistent basis," said U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Head Coach Mike Jankowski. "It's a long haul because the competition is so strong and the level is so high. It's harder now than ever to be competitive at the pro level."
It was also a year for the rookie thanks to riders like Bretz and Lizzy Beerman (Weston, VT). Bretz skyrocketed through the ranks by finishing second at two Grand Prix stops, second on the World Cup, going on to win his first World Cup and finishing second in the World Cup halfpipe standings. Beerman had an incredible finish when she came in sixth against a stacked roster in the X Games. She then went on to finish second in the Vans Cup.
"All the young riders are pushing so hard right now that the level of riding is where the level that the pros were at just a few years ago," Jankowski said. "In turn, that pushes the pros to raise the bar and it becomes a good process of one pushing the other and visa versa."
Jacobellis had no problem reminding everyone that she's the most dominant snowboardcross athlete on the scene. She kicked the season into high gear from the get go when she won the World Cup opener in Chile. From there, it was total domination of the X Games where she beat out an international field for her fourth X Games gold. From there, Jacobellis had three more World Cup wins to finish second in the snowboardcross standings, as well as two wins in the Jeep King of the Mountain series.
The 2008 season also saw the first team SBX event, which was held during the Lake Placid World Cup at Whiteface Mountain in New York. Jacobellis and Chythlook-Sifsof were powerhouses in the women's event, winning it outright and taking of their race jerseys in the finish to reveal that they were wearing the 1980s USA hockey jerseys from the famed "Miracle on Ice" game where USA beat the Soviet Union.
The event, which made waves with its intense competition and team focus, promises to become bigger and better in the future.
Alpine - Pulls in the podiums
U.S. Snowboarding's alpine riders had an unprecedented season with four riders bringing five World Cup podiums to the Team. Gorgone, Justin Reiter (Steamboat Springs, CO), and Adam Smith (Bend, OR) each had one top-3 finish while Tyler Jewell (Steamboat Springs, CO) pulled in two podium finishes.
"I think these guys are starting to get experience and really learn how they work. It takes experience to know what you can do. You have to have a mental edge and it shows with the athletes that have won in the past," said U.S. Snowboarding Alpine Head Coach Steve Persons. "I think these athletes have built their experience over the years and now they're starting to trust their own abilities."
Smith kicked off the season when he took third at the Soelden, Austria World Cup. Jewell had the high-water mark for the team with a third place finish in Spain and a second on home turf at the Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup in Lake Placid, NY. Reiter and Gorgone, not about to end the season without some bling, each were on the podium at the final World Cup stop of the season in Italy. Gorgone then went on to retain her national PSL title and also added national parallel giant slalom champion to her resume.
"This season was a building block for the next couple of years," Persons said. "I think we can take this momentum and build on it to see more success with our athletes."
U.S. Snowboarding will be back this summer with a series of training camps before competition resumes for the 2009 World Cup season in New Zealand in September. The 2009 season will provide the team the opportunity to earn Olympic quota spots through various World Cup competitions.