U.S. Olympic Team Selection Gets Underway at Copper Grand Prix

American freeskiers and snowboarders are vying for valuable selection points

Olympic selection season has finally arrived. The next two weeks, starting with the Copper Grand Prix and wrapping up with Dew Tour Breckenridge, have the potential to shape the look of the U.S. Olympic snowboard and freeski teams in a big way.

First, a quick reminder on how U.S. Olympic team selection works. (If you want the detailed breakdown, click here.)

For freeskiing, there will be five selection events in each discipline. In order to meet the criteria for automatic selection, athletes must have at least two podium finishes against the competition field, which will often include international athletes, during the selection events.

For the snowboard halfpipe team, there will be four selection events. For the snowboard slopestyle and big air team (which is combined into one team), there will be a total of five selection events but they will be broken down into four slopestyle contests and one big air contest. In order to meet the criteria for automatic selection, athletes must have at least one podium finish against the field.

Throughout the process, athletes will be assigned ranking points based on their two best results from the selection events. Up to three athletes in each discipline will then be named to the U.S. Olympic team based on that ranking, as long as those athletes have met the minimum number of podium finishes. Additional spots will be filled at the discretion of the coaches once the selection events have concluded.

 

All eyes on Chloe Kim to make the U.S. snowboard halfpipe team as she heads towards Olympic qualifiers. Photo: Crosland

Some disciplines already had their first selection event last year at the Mammoth Grand Prix, while others have not gotten underway yet. This week’s Copper Grand Prix will host selection events in freeski halfpipe, snowboard halfpipe and snowboard big air.

Below is a look at where things stand heading into this week’s contests at Copper, including possible scenarios through which athletes can secure their nomination to the team.

Men’s freeski halfpipe
Current standings
1. Torin Yater-Wallace, 100*
2. Gus Kenworthy, 80*
3. Taylor Seaton, 60*
4. Aaron Blunck, 50
5. David Wise, 32
*Indicates athletes with one podium finish (need minimum of two to be eligible)

Torin Yater-Wallace is in a position where he could become the first skier to confirm his nomination to the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team. If he wins the Copper Grand Prix he will have enough points to make it mathematically impossible to get bumped out of the top three U.S. team slots by ranking. He would also have his second podium finish, meaning he would meet the minimum podium criteria.

Torin Yater-Wallace sits comfortably atop of the competition heading towards qualifiers. Photo: Baldwin

Gus Kenworthy and Taylor Seaton were unable to qualify for Friday’s halfpipe final at Copper, so they will need to wait until Dew Tour Breckenridge for another shot at getting their second podium finish.

Friday’s final could be huge for several of their American teammates, though. David Wise, Birk Irving and Aaron Blunck will all have a chance to snag their first top-three result.

Women’s freeski halfpipe
Current standings
1. Maddie Bowman, 80*
2. Brita Sigourney, 50
3. Annalisa Drew, 45
4. Carly Margulies, 36
5. Jeanee Crane-Mauzy, 29
*Indicates athletes with one podium finish (need minimum of two to be eligible)

Maddie Bowman still in the runnings for an Olympic spot. Does she have what it take to secure a place? Photo: Baldwin

Although Maddie Bowman can’t officially secure her nomination to the U.S. team at Copper, she would be tough to catch if she gets another good result. She’ll be joined in Friday’s final by teammates Devin Logan, Brita Sigourney, Annalisa Drew and Carly Margulies, all of whom are still in search of their first podium finish.

Men’s freeski slopestyle
There has not yet been a selection event for men’s freeski slopestyle. The qualifying process will start with Dew Tour Breckenridge next week.

Women’s freeski slopestyle
Current standings
1. Maggie Voisin, 100*
2. Devin Logan, 50
3. Darian Stevens, 45
4. Taylor Lundquist, 36
5. Keri Herman, 22
*Indicates athletes with one podium finish (need minimum of two to be eligible)

The Copper Grand Prix will only include halfpipe competitions for freeskiing, so the women’s slopestyle standings will hold firm for another week. Dew Tour Breckenridge will play host to the second selection event for this discipline, and that’s where Maggie Voisin will have an opportunity to clinch a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

Men’s snowboard slopestyle/big air
Current standings
1. Red Gerard, 1000*
2. Kyle Mack, 800*
3. Dylan Thomas, 600*
4. Judd Henkes, 500
5. Brock Crouch, 450
*Indicates athletes who have met minimum of one podium finish

If 17-year-old Red Gerard finishes as the top American in the field at Copper, then he would mathematically confirm his nomination for the PyeongChang Games in both slopestyle and big air. Another strong result would also bode well for Kyle Mack due to his second-place finish at the Mammoth Grand Prix last winter.

After finishing 37th in the first selection event, this is a prime rebound spot for Chris Corning. He recently won a big air World Cup stop in Milan and has emerged as one of Team USA’s top hopefuls in slopestyle and big air.

Women’s snowboard slopestyle/big air
Current standings
1. Jamie Anderson, 1000*
2. Hailey Langland, 800*
3. Julia Marino, 600*
4. Ty Walker, 500
5. Jessika Jenson, 450
*Indicates athletes who have met minimum of one podium finish

Jamie Anderson is the most decorated female slopestyle competitor of her generation. The moment she drops in, her consistency and style are unmatched. Photo: Kanights

The U.S. has a strong trio of female slopestyle and big air riders Jamie Anderson, Hailey Langland and Julia Marino. If those three continue turning in strong podium results as expected, they could all be on their way to locking up U.S. Olympic team nominations in due time. As for Copper, Anderson can be the first of the group to mathematically clinch if she finishes as the top American in the field.

Men’s snowboard halfpipe
Copper will host the first selection event for men’s halfpipe. With amplitude and tricks that still rank at the top of the class, Shaun White will be heavily favored to make the U.S. Olympic team. But the door looks wide open when it comes to the other spots on the roster. The deep pool of talent that will be contending for one of those spots includes 2014 Olympians Danny Davis, Taylor Gold and Greg Bretz (Bretz actually defeated White at the 2013 Dew Tour Breckenridge Olympic Qualifier). There’s a lot of young talent looking to usurp them though, including Chase Josey, Ben Ferguson, Matt Ladley and Ryan Wachendorfer.

USA favorite Shaun White has high hopes at making it to PyeongChang 2018. Photo: Kanights

Women’s snowboard halfpipe
Copper will also host the first selection event for women’s halfpipe. Because of her progressive bag of tricks and her track record of dominating contests in recent years, Chloe Kim will be expected to ultimately qualify for the team. Other contenders include past Olympic champions Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, reigning X Games champion Elena Hight, Maddie Mastro and Arielle Gold.

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