No Olympic berth for Stassel yet -- but that could change

bbragg@adn.comJanuary 19, 2014 

Anchorage snowboarder Ryan Stassel's Olympic dream may have to wait a few more years.

Then again, it may be on pause for only a day or two.

Stassel, 21, was left off the men's slopestyle snowboard team named Sunday for next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

But coaches are expected to add to the team later this week, and if they do, Stassel could be part of history when slopestyle snowboarding makes its Olympic debut.

Three men -- Shaun White of Carlsbad, Calif., Chas Guldemond of Reno, Nevada, and Sage Kotsenburg of Park City, Utah -- earned Olympic berths based on the objective criteria outlined by the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association.

The USSA anticipates expanding the team, officials said in a press release Sunday. And that keeps the door open for Stassel, who hopes to nab a spot as a discretionary choice.

A 2011 Service High graduate, Stassel has established himself as one of the nation's, if not the world's, top slopestyle riders this season and last. A year ago at the world championships, he led the Americans with a seventh-place finish.

More recently, he finished third in the point standings after the five-event U.S. Grand Prix, which was used to pick the Olympic team. He trailed Guldemond and Kotsenburg but finished ahead of White, who secured his Olympic spot last Thursday and skipped Saturday's final qualifying competition.

In the final three Grand Prix competitions last week at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., Stassel was on fire -- he produced finishes of first, third and fourth to shoot up the points list. Those performances should be fresh on coaches' minds as they discuss who else to send to Sochi.

If Stassel earns a spot on the Olympic team, he would be the third Alaskan to compete in Olympic snowboarding. Alpine snowboarder Rosey Fletcher competed in three Olympics, earning bronze in her final appearance in 2006, and snowboardcross racer Callan Chythlook-Sifsof competed in the 2010 Olympics and will learn Saturday if she's on the Sochi team.

Four Alaskana have already gained spots on Team USA -- curler Jessica Schultz and cross-country skiers Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen.


 

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 

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