The Mammoth Grand Prix wrapped up last night. With Japanese rider and competive beast, Ayumu Hirano taking out the top spot in the pipe.
Now, there was a lot of pressure riding on the US Snowboard team for this event, as they’re all currently battling for a spot on the Olympic Team. Shaun White, in particular as he arrived in Mammoth this week as the third-ranked American in the halfpipe that’s lately become dominated by the Japanese.
He stressed the importance of wanting to generate some momentum heading to China, however now he finds himself in fourth spot behind a group led by Taylor Gold. The US team are only taking the top 3 pipe riders…so currently, White is sitting in a pretty uncomfortable position.
Now what happened to White? He put down a solid run in the qualifiers, but did some damage to his lingering ankle issue whilst competiting and made the call to not ride in finals. Pretty big!
A portion of the 2022 U.S. Olympic snowboard team was announced later Saturday night post the event, without the 35-year-old who has been at the top and boasts 3 Olympic Gold medals.
U.S. Olympic head coach Mike Jankowski said White headed back up to the top of the halfpipe for finals but couldn’t get warmed up enough to perform at the level that’s made him one of the faces of the U.S. Winter Olympic program for the better part of two decades.
“If you’re off a bit and you’re not feeling your ‘A’ game, at this level, at night in the icy white, it’s risky as you know so he decided to take a break,” Jankowski said.
The setback was the latest in a series of them for Shaun since he returned to the sport following a three-year sabbatical after his dramatic final-run triumph in Korea in 2018 at the Winter Olympics.
He’s finished eighth and seventh in separate World Cup events last month and said earlier this week that he contracted COVID-19 in late December. Tough run.
“(White) just wants to train and keep working hard and keep getting better,” Jankowski said. “He’s hoping the spot where he’s at now holds solid and that he’s able to get the nomination to the team.”
While White’s status is still unclear, a couple US riders who have multiple Olympic gold medals at home scored their ticket to the Games in Feb.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson will get a shot at a three-peat in women’s snowboard slopestyle. Anderson, who also earned a silver in Big Air in Korea in 2018, will head to China with some momentum after edging Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand in the slopestyle final on Saturday.
“Returning as a two-time champ, you feel the heat and pressure of that, but I also feel I’m grateful to have the privilege to go and represent our country and do what I love and hopefully inspire young girls and young people everywhere to follow their dreams,” Anderson said.
Hailey Langland will return to the Olympics for a second time after competing in both slopestyle and Big Air in Pyeongchang.
Defending halfpipe champion Chloe Kim leads the women’s team snowboard halfpipe team. The 21-year-old Kim soared to gold as a teenager in Korea and like White a decade ago, has become the standard-bearer in the pipe, winning five straight events heading up to Beijing.
Maddie Mastro, the last athlete to beat Kim, will join Kim in China, though she is recovering from an ankle injury suffered after crashing hard at a Dew Tour event in Colorado last month.
Red Gerard will get a chance to defend his gold medal in snowboarding slopestyle after earning an automatic berth. He’ll be joined on the slope course by Dusty Hendrickson and Chris Corning.