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Three Women Claim Berths on Snowboard Team

Associated Press
Saturday, January 24, 1998; 11:09 p.m. EST

BEND, Ore. — Rosey Fletcher, a high-energy Alaskan with a raven tattoo on her right arm, outbattled a snowstorm Saturday to become the first American Olympic snowboarder and Chris Klug of Aspen, Colo., became the second by winning a giant slalom qualifier at Mount Bachelor resort.

Michelle Taggart of Salem, Ore., responding to the vocal support of dozens of friends and relatives, became the third snowboard Olympian by winning the women's halfpipe event.

Todd Richards of Breckenridge, Colo., beat Ross Powers of South Londonderry, Vt., in the men's halfpipe and will carry their battle to the qualifying finale next week at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

"I'm surprised they got this in,'' Fletcher said after winning the women's GS. "When I got to the finish line on my second run, I could only see about three gates ahead of me.''

Fletcher, a 22-year-old from Girdwood, was second Saturday behind Lisa Kosglow of Boise, Idaho. However, Fletcher won the opener in the three-part $225,000 Bud Light U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix last month at Maine's Sugarloaf USA. With Olympic selection based on a rider's two best Grand Prix results, Fletcher clinched a spot on the Olympic team, which will be announced Jan. 31.

Kosglow, the first-run leader, earned $10,000 as she finished with a time of 2 minutes, 28.81 seconds. Fletcher and Canada's Julie Rheaume deadlocked at 2:31.23 and split $7,500.

"This is crazy,'' Fletcher said, shaking off snow in the finish area. "That soft snow made it really gnarly.

"Do I like fish? Of course, I do. I'm from Alaska,'' she gushed in the finish area. "But I'm not so sure about sushi.''

When she won in Maine, Fletcher brought her mother as a good-luck charm. At Mount Bachelor, her father was on hand to see her lock up the Olympic berth.

"I guess they're both good-luck charms,'' she smiled.

"It was ridiculous, like a total whiteout,'' Kosglow said of the storm, which rolled in shortly before the women started their second run. "I really worked for my $10,000.''

She all but assured herself of an Olympic spot "but I can't take anything for granted. I'll be at Mammoth to nail it down,'' she said.

An hour or so later, Klug, the top American man at Sugarloaf, won the men's GS in 2:17.65 with Canadian Mark Fawcett, the Sugarloaf winner, runnerup in 2:18.18.

Klug, who missed the 1996 season after surgery on his left ankle to repair a chronic problem, said, "I was a little lucky in the first run. I drew bib No. 4, so I got a pretty good course with not too many ruts. But that second run in the soft snow was like dodging land mines.

"Visibility was really a challenge,'' he said.

Mike Jacoby of Hood River, Ore., a two-time FIS World Cup giant slalom champion, was fourth overall but the second U.S. rider, which tightened the battle for the men's team.

"I felt it was time for the real Joker to ride. Time to do my business,'' Jacoby said. "I had some problems — a course worker was in my way on the second ride — but I couldn't let that get me. I had to go for it.''

Taggart won the women's halfpipe with 61.2 points to 57.8 for Shannon Dunn of Steamboat Springs, Colo., with Cara-Beth Burnside of Orange, Calif., third at 56.3.

"I don't think there's anyone left in Salem at this point. They're all out here with me,'' Taggart said. "My biggest worry was getting safely through the qualifier yesterday. Once I did that, I was okay and I could relax.''

Richards and Powers were 1-2 in the men's final after going 1-2 in qualifying.

"Ross keeps me on my toes,'' said Richards, who won the U.S. Open halfpipe competition a year ago on Powers' home hill, Stratton Mountain. Echoing Kosglow, Richards said, "This was great but we've still got Mammoth to go and I'm not easing up.

"Besides, they'll be giving away $10,000 at Mammoth, too, so I'd like to get that check, too.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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