Taylor Gold grabbed first in heat one of the qualifiers. (Getty Images-Tom Pennington)
PARK CITY, UT (Feb. 26, 2015)—Thursday marked the end of successful qualifiers for the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix, with Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT), Arielle Gold (Steamboat Springs, CO), Taylor Gold (Steamboat Springs, CO), Jake Pates (Eagle, CO), Brett Esser (Breckenride, CO), Matt Ladley (Steamboat Springs, CO), Gabe Ferguson (Bend, OR) and Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) grabbing spots for the Sprint snowboard halfpipe finals on Sunday.
With light snow falling, Clark and Arielle Gold both rode strongly, taking first and second on the notoriously steep Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) halfpipe. “I love steep halfpipes,” said Clark after her first place run. “It caters to progression. You can get creative, take more risk and maintain your speed.”
Clark has done well in Park City in the past, winning her first and only halfpipe gold medal at PCMR in the 2002 Winter Olympics. She also says she has more to give in finals. Kelly is known for her bigger spins—the frontside 1080 and frontside 900—which she didn’t do in the qualifiers, but plans to pull those out on Sunday.
Arielle Gold also had a solid run on Thursday, and has ridden well this season—second in the first Grand Prix at Copper Mountain and fourth at the X Games.
Jake Pates competes at the Sprint U.S Grand Prix, qualifying for Sunday's finals. (Getty Images-Tom Pennington)
Arielle’s brother Taylor Gold grabbed a first place in his qualifier heat, even with a shaky first run. “I’m really happy that I was able to secure my spot,” said Gold. “I didn’t think that 76 [first run score] was going to hold at all, so I was definitely nervous at the top.” But with a 92 on his second attempt, he made the finals easily. Pates also qualified in the first heat.
The American men stacked them in there in the second heat, taking four of the five available spots for the finals. Esser won, with Ladley—who was injured last year—taking second. 15-year-old rookie Ferguson was fourth and Bretz fifth.
"Coming back from injury all last year and this year, Matt [Ladley] has had a tough few years but he’s riding better than ever,” said Head Coach Ricky Bower. “The level of riding is very high and it’s pretty impressive to see these guys putting down.”
The finals will be another Clark/Gold matchup. In the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix in Copper, Clark was first and Gold second.
U.S. qualifiers to halfpipe finals: Kelly Clark, Arielle Gold, Taylor Gold, Jake Pates, Brett Esser, Matthew Ladley, Gabe Ferguson and Gregory Bretz
Other qualifying women to finals: Xuetong Cai of China, Jiayu Liu of China, Verena Rohrer of Switzerland and Clemence Grimal of France.
Other qualifying men to finals: Kent Callister of Australia, Jan Scherrer of Switzerland, Christian Haller of Switzerland and Yiwei Zhang of China.
QUOTES Kelly Clark It was a really good day at qualis. I’m happy to put a few runs down. The pipe is riding really well and I’m looing forward to finals on Sunday. I always like coming back to this place. It holds a lot of good memories for me. I always enjoy coming back here. Good memories from the Olympics, for sure.
I’ve been doing my finals run in practice this week. I love steep halfpipes; it caters to progression. You can get creative, take more risk and maintain your speed.
Taylor Gold It went good! In practice I didn’t land anything, so I was really happy I landed two runs—even if the first one wasn’t good. I’ve been having trouble with one trick in my runs—the double chuck—and for some reason it just wasn’t working today. First run I got sketchy on it and second run I figured it out. It was a little smoother, thank god.
I’m really happy that I was able to secure my spot. I didn’t think that 76 was going to hold at all, so I was definitely nervous at the top. I’m hoping it will be good weather at finals—but it’s not supposed to be. But the pipe is still really fast and good. If it’s like this, I’ll be happy. There will be a lot of sick runs.
Matt Ladley Today went well with the challenging conditions. It was a little slow with all the new snow, but I felt good in practice and put down what I knew I could land. It’s late in the season and so everyone is riding well and the consistency level is high. Everyone is putting down their runs and this is when everyone is riding their best.
Greg Bretz Today was good. I was stoked to land my run and make it through to the finals—that’s always the goal. The level of riding was good. It’s always hard riding in snowy conditions when you don’t have the speed you want, but it’s gonna shape up to be a good contest.