Last week we were pleased to report that Billy Morgan, Jenny Jones and Jamie Nicholls had all made the finals of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA)’s Grand Prix slopestyle comp at Breckenridge. Unfortunately some sketchy weather meant that the competition had to be postponed, and eventually cancelled. Were this a typical event, it’d actually be great news for Billy in particular, who had qualified in first place and would be crowned the overall winner by default. However, the decision was made to discount all qualifier results, causing frustration and confusion for many of the riders.
The Grand Prix stops determine which American riders will make the US Olympic team, but also serve as top international contests in their own right (hence why riders like Billy and Torstein Horgmo made the trip). The USSA’s contingency plan is to have a US-only event at Mammoth ahead of the final two Grand Prix events but, as some other countries are using the series to pick their Olympic representatives, this leaves a few questions unanswered. Kjersti Buaas, who stormed the qualifiers, had a guaranteed top-10 finish (which would have secured a place on the Norwegian team) taken away from her. This was her last chance to make the cut, so she’s understandably gutted at the decision. Along with the USA’s Jamie Anderson, Kjersti led the majority of the female slopestyle qualifiers in submitting an appeal.
The International Ski Federation (FIS), who are in charge of Olympic qualifying, eventually knocked them back and released this statement:
“The Appeals Commission reviewed all the jury documents and after considering all the facts, the commission concluded that the jury acted properly. The ICR Rules 2605 (Half Pipe) and 3004 (Slopestyle) define that ‘Only the finals shall determine the final ranking for the qualified competitors.’ So, it’s unfortunate for the athletes but FIS has to follow the rules.”
Some riders took to social media to vent their frustrations. Greg Bretz, who had qualified first in the halfpipe, made mention of “the biggest waste of a week I’ve ever endured”. Meanwhile Billy had his own thoughts on the matter:
Billy at least has already met the criteria for Sochi, but it’s a different story for the likes of Kjersti and Ulrik Badertscher. Time will tell if the Norwegian team (and other national governing bodies) will take the results at Breckenridge into account, and until then all the affected riders can do is wait.
While FIS were quick to point out that their decision was based on a ruling already in place, it does seem out of sync with most snowboard competitions – Kjersti, a veteran contest rider with three Olympics already under her belt, declared she’d never seen this happen at any event she’d been to in the past.
The whole thing is yet another example of confusion caused by having different tours with different ways of doing things. A lot of the riders clearly weren’t aware of FIS’ procedures, and were pretty miffed when they found out about them. Even the appeals process wasn’t clear at first. We get the feeling that the more this happens, the more the hard work of the riders will be undermined. Here’s hoping that competitive snowboarding as a whole can learn from what went on at Breckenridge.