If the IOC took a vote tomorrow whether to keep snowboard halfpipe in the Olympic Games the sport would get considerably less support than when it was added for the Games in 1998. Of the 18 medals for men and women up for grabs in the past three Winter Games, U.S. athletes have won all of the gold medals and 14 medals in total.
While athletes from Japan, Finland and a handful of other countries are closing the gap, the U.S. team - with Shaun White defending his title - has a good chance of dominating once again.
It's no wonder that the Canadian riders have focused more attention on the U.S. Grand Prix series recently, both to earn points on Olympic-size halfpipes as well as to measure themselves against the American riders.
At the most recent event at Mammoth Mountain on Jan. 10 two Canadians qualified for the finals by finishing in the top 17, with Squamish-based Brad Martin finishing 15 th and Dustin Craven making the finals for a second straight Grand Prix event with a 16 th place finish. Justin Lamoureux was 22 nd , Jeff Batchelor 24 th and Whistler's Dan Raymond and Ryan Rausch rounded out the top 30 in 25 th and 29 th place respectively.
Only the top eight women advanced to the final, and once again Sarah Conrad was just shy of the mark with a ninth place finish. Alexandra Duckworth was 12 th , Palmer Taylor 13 th , Whistler's Katie Tsuyuki 14 th , Dominique Vallée 15 th , Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll 16 th , Lauren Shanahan 23 rd , Sandy Ward 26 th and Diane Rudge 28 th .
U.S. riders dominated once again on the men's side with Shaun White on top, followed by Louie Vito and J.J. Thomas. U.S. riders took all 10 of the top 10 spots.
In the women's contest it was Gretchen Bleiler on top, followed by fellow Americans Elena Hight and Hannah Teter.
The snowboardcross team was also in action last week in Bad Gastein, Austria. Whistler/Squamish rider Maëlle Ricker ended her gold medal run at three consecutive wins with a seventh place finish. Dominique Maltais was 10 th .
Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S. took the win, followed by Helene Olafsen of Norway and Sandra Frei of Switzerland.
Rob Fagan was the top Canadian on the men's side with a sixth place finish. Next up was Mike Robertson in 13 th place, with Drew Neilson, returning from an injury, posting his first top 16 - a 16 th place finish -since he was cleared to race again.