Mammoth halfpipe snowboarder and team rider Greg Bretz took the first step on the Road to Sochi and Olympic glory on Saturday December 14 by beating Shaun White in the finals of the Dew Tour Ion Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. Fellow Mammoth athletes Kelly Clark and Chloe Kim followed suit in the women’s snowboard halfpipe finals by finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
Bretz, 23, was raised in Mammoth and earned a spot on the 2010 Men’s Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe team along with White, Louie Vito and Scotty Lago.
Under sunny skies and cold temps Bretz established early momentum with a run that included back-to-back double corks and stylish amplitude, all flawlessly executed, earning him a score of 91.40. White, on the other hand, faltered on his first attempt with an unexpected fall. The result put him second to last place after run 1.
On his second run Bretz aimed to extend his lead but took a hard slam after under rotating on a trick he normally lands perfectly. Coming down hard on the flat section of the pipe’s lower transition the crowd held its collective breath after Bretz smacked his lower back and tailbone area. Slowly but assuredly, the points leader rose from the ground and signaled calm with a hand wave, despite grimacing in pain while slide-slipping the lower two-thirds of the 600-foot long halfpipe.
Commenting on the crash and lack of serious injury with NBC’s Tina Dixon, Bretz said, “I feel ok really. I’ve been working out all summer long preparing for moments like this. I guess it’s paying off.”
After failed efforts by the likes of Louie Vito, Danny Davis and Japanese favorite Ayumu Hirano to overtake Bretz’s score during their 2nd runs, it was left to White to prove he still is the best man under pressure. White is known to rise to the occasion and take back leads at the last moment. NBC commentator Todd Richards remarked that White is the best contest snowboarder that’s ever lived.
Unfortunately for White fans, the flying tomato just couldn’t find the sauce to seal the deal with his second run. A squirrely first hit method and sketchy landing on a later trick defined a generally lackluster run for White, despite including his signature boot grab double cork 1260 that has won contests for him in the past. The resulting 90.40 score was only good enough for 2nd, leaving Bretz and friends ecstatic at the bottom of the pipe.
The victory gains Bretz 1000 points heading into the next qualifying event for the men’s halfpipe team. With remaining events in Copper Mountain, Northstar and Mammoth its still anyone’s game, yet the boy from Mammoth Lakes is leading the charge over the world’s best halfpipe snowboarders.
On the women’s side Kelly Clark, who is the winningest athlete in action sports history with 60 contests victories had, much like White, the opportunity to surpass the points leader, Australian Torah Bright, but washed out on her third hit. Fortunately Clark’s first run score was enough for second place and included her signature frontside air, backside 540, frontside 1080, cab 720, frontside 540 and frontside 720.
In a huge surprise 13-year-old fellow Mammoth team rider Chloe Kim turned heads by turning loose a shocking run consisting of a backside air, frontside McTwist, crippler 720 to cab 720 and finishing with frontside 720.
Though she’s too young to qualify for Sochi, expect great things from this up and comer. On her breakout success Kim said, “I’m really happy with my run. I tried to mellow it out on the first run. When I landed that I wanted to go bigger on my second run.”