Stowe High School athlete Ty Walker was one of three Vermonters named to the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team this past weekend in Park City, Utah.
The 16-year-old placed second overall in slopestyle during the five-event U.S. Grand Prix qualifying series, which wrapped up at Mammoth Mountain. Walker has also competed in both soccer and field hockey at the high school level, but now her sights are set solely on Sochi.
“This is the path that she’s followed and I can speak for everyone at Stowe by saying that we’re all so excited and so proud of her,” Raiders Athletic Director Joanna Graves said. “She’s a fabulous girl — everybody can only say the nicest things about her — and her hard work has really paid off.”
Slopestyle snowboarding will make its Olympic debut as the opening event of the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. Walker will be one of the younger athletes and also one of the smallest at 5-feet, 135 pounds. But the Mount Mansfield Ski and Snowboard Club product has been on a hot streak, skyrocketing to 10th place in the current World Snowboard Tour rankings.
In 2011 she placed first at nationals in addition to winning the Roxy Powder Jam at Mammoth. She also claimed top honors at the Burton European Open Junior Jam for three consecutive years before taking a break from competitionduring the 2012 season in order to train for the Olympics. All her time in the gym paid off last winter when Walker led the U.S. with a fifth-place showing a the World Snowboarding Championships.
A total of 13 halfpipe and slopestyle athletes locked up U.S. Olympic berths Sunday, with two more spots still up for grabs. In women’s halfpipe, 30-year-old Kelly Clark of West Dover and 26-year-old Hannah Teter of Belmont both punched repeat tickets to the Winter Games.
Clark attended Mount Snow Academy and has won two Olympic medals: gold in 2002 and bronze in 2010. Teter is a Black River High School graduate who also competed for the Okemo Mountain School. She captured gold during her first Olympic appearance in 2006 before claiming silver four years ago.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White will get a chance at a three-peat in halfpipe after earning one of the three automatic spots on the men’s team. As he did Friday, White nailed a frontside double-cork 1440 on Sunday, the hardest trick currently being done in competition.
The 27-year-old overcame an ugly crash during a slopestyle event Thursday to bounce back and clinch a spot in that discipline as well.
“This has been the craziest journey to get here from doing slope and pipe and just like the process I’m going through,” White said. “It’s a tough thing. I love that about this time around, it’s not the same. It stays exciting. If it was just halfpipe, maybe I would have procrastinated (in preparation).”
White will be joined by 2010 Olympian Greg Bretz and newcomers Danny Davis and Taylor Gold.
Davis was poised to head to Vancouver four years ago and even beat White in a pre-Olympic event only to have his pelvis crushed in an all-terrain vehicle accident a few weeks before the Games.
Barring a setback, Davis may be White’s toughest competition in Sochi. The 25-year-old won a qualifying event that White sat out early Friday and put together an ambitious run Sunday, falling just 1.6 points short of catching White’s spectacular set.
Gold will have a familiar face to hang with in his Olympic debut. Gold’s younger sister, Arielle, was named to the women’s halfpipe team. Kaitlyn Farrington is also heading to Russia after ending Clark’s four-event winning streak in Sunday’s finale. Sage Kotsenburg, Jamie Anderson and Chas Guldemond rounded out the slopestyle team.
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