Mother Nature interferes with snowboarders’ World Cup bid |

Mother Nature interferes with snowboarders’ World Cup bid

John F. Russell

— Five Steamboat Springs snowboarders put their World Cup dreams to the test last week at Mount Hood in Oregon.

Two local riders came up just short of World Cup berths on the first day of a planned two-day qualifying event hosted by the U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding Association. The athletes’ hopes of making it to the first World Cup of the season were further dampened after rain canceled the second day of competition. The cancellation ended any hopes the local snowboarders who were in a good spot to make the cut had to qualify for the first World Cup of the season, which will be held in Valle Nevado, Chile, Sept. 10.

“Despite the high level of talent in the field, we went there (to the qualifying events) with one goal to qualify for the World Cup,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Mike Mallon said.

In preparation for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the U.S. Snowboarding Association has devised a system where five of the 10 World Cup spots will be filled from the FIS points lists.

The top-20 men and top-15 women from the most current points lists were invited to the first two qualifiers, which took place at Mount Hood on July 29-30 five of the 35 total athletes at the event were from Steamboat Springs.

In order to qualify for a World Cup spot, the riders must complete four runs on four separate giant slalom courses over two days. The best two results are averaged and the top three women and top two men were selected to fill the remaining World Cup positions.

Leading the way for the local riders were Justin Goto and Michelle Gorgone. Both riders had solid first runs at the qualifiers and placed fourth in the final standings.

After the top showing in the first two runs of the event, both riders were pumped for the second event of the series. However, Mother Nature

interrupted the riders’ plans as fog and rain forced the event to be canceled Monday.

“The fog was so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” Mallon said.

The conditions were deemed unsafe and the local riders failed to get the chance to move up in the standings.

Despite the near miss, Goto walked away from the event with a new perspective and a new sense of motivation for the next qualifying event, which will be held in Breckenridge in October.

“The first World Cup is not an Olympic qualifier. I know I can do it now. Mike had been telling me for years, but I didn’t believe until now. I was up against all these guys with their fancy U.S. Team jackets and hordes of coaches, trainers, wax techs and support crews. Then there we were, just Mike and me looking at the scoreboard, happy, sitting second after the first run, but knowing that we are better. When I go to Breckenridge in late October to try to qualify for Tignes, France I know, as I proved this weekend, that I will be ready,” Goto said.

The France World Cup will be the first of five qualifying events for snowboarders hoping to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2002. Mallon feels as if both Goto and Gorgone are in a good position to make that team.

Last weekend, Goto raced to second place after the first run. He placed sixth in the second run, which dropped him to fourth in the overall rankings.

Gorgone also placed second in her race after the first run. She was unable to finish her second run but also placed fourth in the overall standings.

“We were sitting in prime position to wrap up this qualifier on the first day, Mallon said.

Gorgone needed a top-five finish in the second run to make the cut, but she set up too early and crowded a gate. By the time she corrected her position, she had missed the gate.

“All I had to do was place in the top five in one of the races on the second day and I was there,” Gorgone said.

Unfortunately, the rain and fog came into the picture and she didn’t get another shot at moving up in the standings.

Other Steamboat Springs snowboarders at the event included Erica Mueller, who placed eighth; Becky Bassett, who was 10th; and Sarah Hamor, who placed 12th in the final standings.

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