American women sweep snowboard halfpipe podium at Copper Mountain for U.S. Grand Prix | CraigDailyPress.com

American women sweep snowboard halfpipe podium at Copper Mountain for U.S. Grand Prix

Antonio Olivero
aolivero@summitdaily.com

As it's an Olympic year, American snowboarder Kelly Clark said big progressions in the level of riding should be expected. At the Woodward superpipe at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday, Clark and her American teammates didn't disappoint, as she was joined on the U.S. Grand Prix FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup podium by champion Chloe Kim and second place finisher Maddie Mastro.

Despite a flatter-pitched halfpipe at Copper than other World Cup and Olympic qualifying events, Kim achieved remarkable raw amplitude on her first run of the day, piecing together an air, a front 10, a cab 7 and a front 5 McTwist to earn a score of 93.75 for the title.

"I'm totally speechless," Kim said. "I woke up and I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm so nervous. I'm going to puke.' But, you know, I think the halfpipe kind of makes me feel at home and all the nerves go away when I'm dropping in and I'm just excited to try new stuff."

Mastro entered the day with the high score from the qualification round, which meant she had one final chance to best her teammate Kim on the final run of the day. Standing at the top of the pipe while Kim and Clark patiently waited at the bottom, the announcer at Copper Mountain didn't mince words.

"If you're Maddie Mastro, the gameplan is easy," he said. "Have your best run of your career right now."

Mastro put together a remarkable run, bumping her best score of the day up into the 90s. But the 90.75 wasn't good enough to overtake Kim. It came on a final run that featured a front 9 Indy, a back 5 grab, a front 7 Hawkin (flip) and a front 5 seatbelt.

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Clark described this week of qualifying and finals at Copper — one which featured five American women scoring in the top eight and 16 American women taking part in total — as a "zero to 100 type of week." Though there wasn't much practice, the veteran Clark considered it a job well done for the Americans, as she took third place with a score of 83.75 via a run that consisted of a frontside air, a backside 5, a frontside 10, a cab 7, a crippler 5 and a backside air.

"I'm real happy to get a podium," she said. "Just starting to accumulate those points that I need to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team."

Kim may have been the powerhouse that stole the show and secured the title, but it was Mastro's soulful run that impressed her fellow second place finisher of the day, American snowboarder Ben Ferguson.

"Her style is different," Ferguson said. "It's not, 'Get the trick done.' It's more, there is some soul in there. It's some added creativity, and I really like that."

"He's someone whose style I've taken bits from and incorporated in mine," Mastro responded. "So getting a compliment like that from him is mad fangirling for me — makes me happy. And I think with my riding, for me, everything I do is what feels good for me. And I do every trick with a purpose. And I feel Ben incorporates that in his riding as well."

Japan's Sena Tomita finished in fourth place Friday with a score of 80.50 on her final run. American Arielle Gold took fifth place with a score of 77.25 on her final run, and China's Jiayu Liu posted a 76.75 on her final run to take sixth. France's Mirabelle Thovex scored a 75.75 on her first run to secure seventh while American Elena High rounded out the finalists with a score of 67.50 on her second run.

Like the men, three spots on the U.S. Olympic team will be given to the female snowboarders who meet the objective criteria, which is a podium finish at a qualifying event, such as the Grand Prix at Copper. Other qualifying events are scheduled for the Dew Tour Dec. 14-17 in Breckenridge, Jan. 10-12 in Snowmass and Jan. 17-19 in Mammoth, California. A fourth Olympic team spot will likely — but not definitely — be given to a competitor of the coaches' choosing.

For the objective spots, if more than three athletes have podium finishes, then the team will defer to the World Cup scoring system, which will give the American athlete with the best result 1,000 points, the American with the second best result 800 points, the third best 600 points and so on. Those with the most points make the team.

The final qualifier in Mammoth will return Americans like Mastro to their home mountain. And with this head start to Pyeongchang qualification via her showing at Copper on Saturday, Mastro is in ideal position with the Pyeongchang games exactly two months away.

"Having Chloe and Kelly next to me," Mastro said, "two of my teammates from Mammoth and the U.S. team, is so exciting. And to see them land runs, there is nothing more you can want than your teammates landing runs. It's just kind of a snowball effect this season. I hope we keep pushing and progressing throughout the season. It's supportive. I've never really had camaraderie with my teammates before like this."