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‘98 Olympian Powers clinches ’02 spot

SHARE ‘98 Olympian Powers clinches ’02 spot

BEND, Ore. ? Despite intermittent rain, Olympic medalist Ross Powers (South Londonderry, Vt.) clinched a spot on his second Olympic Team Sunday as he won the men's halfpipe contest on the final day of the Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix at Mount Bachelor. Another Vermonter, Kelly Clark (Mount Snow, Vt.), tightened the women's Olympic picture by winning the women's event.

Each win was worth $10,000 for winners. Olympic selection will be based on a rider's two best results in the five halfpipe competitions of the Grand Prix. The final two events will be Jan. 9-13 at Breckenridge, Colo.

Powers picked up his first win of this season's Grand Prix after finishing second ? to Danny Kass (Hamburg, N.J.) and Luke Wynen (Reading, Pa.) ? in the first two events. Kass was 13th Sunday and Wynen finished 19th in the field of 71.

Powers had 45.2 points on his first ride and that stood up as Andy Finch (Fresno, Calif.) got 44.8 on both rides. Tommy Czeschin (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) took third place with 44.0 points.

"I think Ross locking up an Olympic spot today is just awesome. You couldn't ask for a better kid to make the team," said Peter Foley, U.S. head coach and once again head coach of the Olympic Team. "He has the experience from Nagano, and having been through it once and understanding how much of a circus the Olympics can be will definitely pay off."

Powers agreed, noting that clinching the Olympic spot "really takes a lot of pressure off because now I can concentrate on my riding and getting better in the pipe." The Olympic experience ? by itself and then in conjunction with winning the inaugural bronze medal in halfpipe ? will be invaluable, he said. "I know what to expect and how to handle all the attention of the Olympics."

In the women's contest, Clark, a former World Juniors gold medalist, received 46.9 on her first ride to outdistance U.S. Snowboard Team teammate Gretchen Bleiler (Snowmass, Colo.), who had 45.4. Tricia Byrnes (New Canaan, Conn.), second in each of the first two contests behind Shannon Dunn (Carmelian Bay, Calif.), was third with 44.3.

The contest marked inverted airs from both Bleiler and Byrnes, the first time each had completed the maneuver in competition.

Clark said the rain "definitely makes riding the pipe more difficult, but being from Vermont I have some experience riding in these conditions."