Kelly Clark goes big to claim one of the few titles that eluded her a year ago, winning the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper.
COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO. (Dec. 10) — U.S. Snowboarding's Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) had quite the season last year, winning 10 of the 12 halfpipe contests she entered and landing the first-ever 1080 in women’s competition at Winter X Games. But one that eluded her was the Copper Grand Prix. After falling in the first run, Clark dropped into the Copper Mountain halfpipe as the second-to-last competitor Saturday and laid down a run with her signature amplitude and slow rotations to take the podium’s top step, winning the season's first Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix just ahead of rookie teammate Maddy Schaffrick (Steamboat Springs, CO). In the men’s competition, Luke Mitrani (Stratton Mountain, VT) put down a huge run to win. Pro Halfpipe Team member Greg Bretz (Anaheim) placed third behind defending champion Louie Vito (Columbus, OH) in a contest full of upping the ante, as riders put down frontside 12s and a even few back-to-back double cork 10s while afternoon shadows moved over the Copper halfpipe.
Olympic champ Kelly Clark, who needed her second run to clinch the win, put it down as the second-to-last rider with a frontside 9, backside 5, frontside 7 tail, cab 7, frontside 5 to a method air.
It was the second straight Grand Prix win for Clark, who was second in Copper a year ago but won the season-ending event at Mammoth Mountain, CA and moved her into the TTR World Rankings lead.
Rookie Maddy Schaffrick finished second in her first competition back after a year-and-a-half off from injury.
Schaffrick was wearing tiger face paint symbolizing "eye of the tiger."
Quera Castelet of Spain took third in the women’s competition with a front 9, back 5, front 5, method, and front 7 moving into second in the TTR World Rankings.
Pro Halfpipe Team member Kaitlyn Farrington took fourth in the women’s competition with a backside 9, frontside 7, cab 7, a stalefish as her mandatory straight air, and a backside 5.
Luke Mitrani’s second run of finals in the men’s competition, which gave him the win on the day, was double Michalchuk, frontside 9, backside Indy, frontside 10, cab double-cork 10.
Louie Vito placed second overall with his second run that went double-cork crippler, backside method, frontside double-cork 10, cab double cork 10, and frontside 12. His first run was identical save the final hit, which was a frontside 10 initially. His finish moved him into the TTR Halfpipe World Tour rankings lead.
Greg Bretz’s third-place run went air to fakie, cab 10, front 9, back 9, and front 10 double-cork, with his last hit well out of the pipe.
In his first run of finals, Rookie Halfpipe Team member Benji Farrow landed the first 1260 of the day, boosting well out of the pipe on his last hit. The frontside 12 in his second run was even smoother. Farrow took sixth.
Halfpipe Pro Team Member Matt Ladley, who qualified ninth for the finals despite a broken arm, sat out on Saturday to rest the limb and cheer on his fellow riders.
The Copper event marked the start of the 16th season for the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix.
QUOTES Kelly Clark It's never ideal to fall first run in finals. It definitely puts the pressure on, but I just tried to stay focused and I really looked at it as an opportunity to overcome instead of a threat to take away my goal for the day. I knew exactly what I did wrong my first run and I went out there and fixed it in my second run.
I was so impressed with the level of riding today with the ladies. I thought it was one of the most progressive qualifiers and finals that I've seen and I'm really excited for the rest of the season. Seeing these girls ride so well is inspiring and it makes me want to be a better snowboarder.
Luke Mitrani This is crazy because I didn't even snowboard this summer. I just skateboarded a lot and took my mind off snowboarding, so to jump back into it is crazy to win a contest. I'm shocked. My strategy was to just focus on my riding and feed off of other people. When someone does something big it makes me want to ride even harder for myself.
Maddy Schaffrick I don't even know what to feel right now—I'm kind of crying, kind of laughing. I wanted to land a run for myself, so landing a run and getting into finals was incredible. I was kind of going into finals like 'whatever happens, happens' cause I've gotten this far. It's really cool to get even farther!
Greg Bretz It was a heavy contest for the first of the year. There were a lot of big tricks thrown down. I'm stoked for all the riders and stoked for the podium. I'm happy with a third, you always wish for better, but I'm stoked to be on the podium.
Louie Vito This was a pretty intense day. Everyone was throwing down and riding super well. But that's what's great about riding with everyone and having the Grand Prix. There are so many good riders and it pushes you to step it up. You have to just keep pushing yourself and stay with the progression because you have to stay at the front of the pack. There are a lot of tricks I want to learn. The season is long and I just like to get some time to keep stepping up every contest.
TV NBC – Sunday, Dec. 18 - 12:30-2:00 p.m. Versus – Saturday, Dec. 24 – 4:00-5:00 p.m. Versus - Saturday, Dec. 31 - 4:00-500 p.m. (Paul Mitchell Progression Session)
RESULTS Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, Copper Mountain