Bleiler Again Tops Clark, Setting Up Potential Showdown | stanton-company.com

Bleiler Again Tops Clark, Setting Up Potential Showdown

Gretchen Bleiler defeated Kelly Clark for the second time this month, setting up a potential showdown in the halfpipe at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February.

Bleiler’s winning score of 96.66 came on her second of three runs when she pulled a frontside 900, backside 540, a crippler 720 and a cab 720. After qualifying first, Clark had the final run of the competition and a chance to win. She put together a high-flying run with a frontside air, backside 540, frontside 900, a method, and finished with a cab 720, but settled for a score of 96.0 and the silver medal. Hannah Teter won bronze with a score of 70.0. All three are members of the United States snowboard team.

After winning four of five events on the United State Grand Prix circuit this season, Clark was the first woman to clinch a spot on the United States team in halfpipe. Clark, who won the gold medal in women’s halfpipe at the 2002 Winter Olympics, appeared to be the favorite to win again at the Vancouver Games on the strength of soaring airs and the technical ability to spin in two directions.

But Bleiler won a Grand Prix earlier this month in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. And on her winning run in the Superpipe final Saturday she demonstrated that she, too, can spin in two directions while mixing in her signature maneuver, the crippler 720, an inverted aerial where she spins two rotations.

“I finally feel like I’m riding to my potential tonight,” Bleiler said.

And she credited Clark for pushing her to new heights. “This girl here has been riding so well all year long,” Bleiler said. “I was inspired, Kelly.”

The win was the fourth X Games superpipe gold medal for Bleiler, who is from Aspen. At the 2009 X Games superpipe final, Bleiler fell hard to the bottom of the pipe, sustaining a concussion.

Torah Bright of Australia, another strong contender for a medal in snowboard halfpipe at the Olympics, pulled out of the X Games on Thursday after sustaining her second concussion in three days.

Bright, who won the X Games superpipe competition in 2009, fell during practice in the pipe Thursday morning while attempting a crippler 540, an inverted aerial while spinning one and a half times. On Tuesday, Bright fell and struck her head trying a switch backside 720, a technical spin of two rotations. Her agent, Circe Wallace, said Bright would recover in time for the Olympics.

Elena Hight, the fourth member of the U.S. women’s halfpipe team, finished sixth.

Clark said about the United States women’s team, “I think we’re all going to have a lot of momentum heading to Vancouver in a couple of weeks.”

For more on this story, please visit The New York Times Online.

Posted on: January 31, 2010
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