Last season, Kelly Clark, who is known for flying higher out of the halfpipe than any of her competitors, won nearly every contest she entered. This season, she started off with wins at the Burton Open in New Zealand and at the first Grand Prix Olympic qualifier in Copper in December. By the time she arrived in Mammoth for the second Grand Prix contest of the season, it seemed she couldn't get any higher. But with a second Grand Prix win Wednesday afternoon, Clark became the first U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympic team -- her third-straight. She was so overwhelmed with excitement, she looked like she just might float away. "I couldn't be happier with my result today and it's a privilege to be
going to my third Olympic Games," she said.
Hannah Teter, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, finished second. Teter had to withdraw from the first qualifier in December after injuring her shoulder in prelims, but looked poised to make a run at her second Olympic team. "I feel really good," said Teter. "It's nice to come back after having a slight injury in the first Grand Prix. I've been doing a lot of visualizing, and seeing everything in my head then just putting it out on the snow."
Rounding out the women's podium was Australian rider Holly Crawford. Gretchen Bleiler, who finished second at the first stop in Mammoth, took fourth, but earned third-place points.
On the men's side, Danny Davis won his first Grand Prix contest of the season. His run included two double corks and a double backside roadeo and was being called the greatest run in snowboarding history. "It's hard to imagine where halfpipe riding will go next," says Davis. "Last season just having a double in a halfpipe run would have won it, now we're doing three in a single run. I'm hoping that I can keep up this level for the weekend and into the next Dew Tour, but even more that I'll ride again with Kevin soon."
Shaun White, who also landed a stellar run, took second, Scotty Lago finished third and Louie Vito took fourth. "There was some great riding today," White says. "This was by far the heaviest contest I've ever been in and being at the top with one run to go, I pulled the trigger and went for it."
The next halfpipe qualifier will take place in Mammoth on Saturday afternoon.
Davis or White could become the next athlete to qualify for the Olympic team with a win.