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Hannah Teter, after just missing Olympics, gets back on snowboard

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NEW YORK — It just might be the hardest U.S. Winter Olympic team to make.

A year ago, a bevy of accomplished riders went out for the U.S. Olympic women’s halfpipe team of four. Chloe Kim, the teenager expanding the sport with back-to-back 1080s, was all but a lock. Kelly Clark, perhaps the greatest snowboarder of all time, made it, too. As did Arielle Gold, a world champion at age 16. And Maddie Mastro, 17 and the most improved rider of the Olympic cycle.

That meant an Olympic gold and silver medalist, 31-year-old Hannah Teter, had to watch the Winter Games on TV for the first time since 2002.

“Last year was so heavy,” said Teter, who finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic qualifying standings, one spot ahead of fellow multiple Olympian and the 2017 X Games winner, Elena Hight. “I was bummed, but not really, because all my friends were going, and I knew they were going to win.”

Kim took gold in PyeongChang as part of arguably the greatest season in halfpipe history, becoming the first rider of either gender to sweep X Games, the Olympics and the Burton U.S. Open in one winter. Gold added a bronze. Clark was fourth in perhaps her last Olympics. Mastro qualified fourth into the final and ended up 12th.

Teter said she didn’t ride much in the summer, taking one of the longest breaks from snowboarding of a 15-year career of top-level competition. She is on the entry list for next week’s Dew Tour but said on Monday that she was still deciding whether to compete.

That’s in part because Teter is devoting more time to other pursuits. She was in Manhattan this week for a Muscular Dystrophy Association gala and to promote the Special Olympics World Games in March in Abu Dhabi.

Many Olympic legends have been involved in the World Games, from Michael Phelps to Nadia Comaneci to Michelle Kwan to Apolo Ohno. Teter said she attended the last three. In fact, she helped bridge the Special Olympics and the X Games, introducing a dual slalom event in 2015 that pairs one Special Olympics athlete with one X Games athlete.

Last season, Teter skipped the traditional X Games halfpipe (after missing the Olympic team and falling hard in training) but did compete in the dual slalom with partner Daina Shilts. This season, she is committing to the dual slalom but iffy on halfpipe.

Teter could not remember the last time she missed the X Games halfpipe in a non-Olympic year. Her X Games biography says 2001, days after she turned 14.

Which leads one to wonder if Teter is interested in another Olympic run. In 2022, she will turn 35, older than any previous U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider. She says it’s possible.

“Especially if I just stay in the mix,” said Teter, who last won a top-level contest in January 2009 and must work to keep up with the increasing flips and spins brought by Kim, Gold and Mastro. “It’s [intimidating] because, oh, I’ve got to do that to win? S—. But it is motivating, too, because it’s possible. They’re doing it. They’re landing it. It shows it can be done.”

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Kelly Clark qualifies for Olympics, as does rider half her age

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On the night Kelly Clark qualified for a record fifth Olympics, a woman half her age made her first team.

Clark, the most decorated female halfpipe rider with three Olympic medals and more than 70 career wins, notched another victory in the fourth and final qualifier Saturday night.

Maddie Mastro, who was born after Clark made her X Games debut in 2000, finished third in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They join the previously qualified Olympic favorite Chloe Kim (also born in 2000) as the three U.S. women to grab automatic berths for PyeongChang. The three automatic men’s qualifiers were decided last week, headlined by Shaun White.

A fourth rider is expected to be added for each gender, selected by a committee next week. The fourth man should be Chase Josey, who won Saturday night.

That fourth woman will likely be Sochi Olympian Arielle Gold. If that’s the case, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter will miss the Olympics.

As would reigning X Games champion Elena Hight, a testament to the depth of U.S. women’s snowboarding.

The U.S. has a shot to sweep the Olympic halfpipe podium, with the top rivals coming from China and Spain.

Clark’s fifth and perhaps final Olympics (most for a female snowboarder) could bookend an incredible career.

In 2002, she became the youngest Olympic snowboarding champion at age 18. Next month, she can become the oldest Olympic snowboarding medalist.

In between, she also took bronze in 2010 and 2014 and won 10 X Games medals, including five golds.

Clark accomplished something new in this Olympic cycle — returning from her first major injury.

The Vermont native tore her left hamstring and hip labrum in February 2016, underrotating a 1080 in practice. After surgery, her feet were bound together for a month.

Clark found it to be the biggest obstacle of her career. It overtook her fourth-place finish at the 2006 Winter Olympics, the only time she has missed the podium at a Winter Games.

She got Iris, a golden retriever puppy. Iris faithfully stayed at Clark’s side for endless hours of physical therapy.

In one of her first contests back last February, Clark won the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth, which is now her home mountain. It was the same day her New England Patriots won the Super Bowl with their own comeback.

Mastro, a 17-year-old from Southern California, could be called the most improved U.S. female halfpipe rider in the last year.

She finished seventh at X Games in 2016 and 2017, but then was third at the U.S. Open in March.

This season, she placed second, fourth and third at the first three Olympic qualifiers to move into position to clinch Saturday night.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Halfpipe 
(through three of four events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Shaun White — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)

1. Jake Pates — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
4. Chase Josey — 1,500* (1st and 4th)
5. Gabe Ferguson — 1,300* (2nd and 4th)

1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Kelly Clark — 1,800* QUALIFIED

3. Maddie Mastro — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100* (3rd and 4th)
5. Hannah Teter — 900 (5th and 5th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against whole field.

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Snowboarders, freeskiers get last Olympic qualifying chance

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Many stars already qualified for PyeongChang — Shaun WhiteChloe KimJamie Anderson among them — but three Olympic gold medalists go into the last U.S. snowboard/freeski qualifier this week with work to do.

Two of them are in the same event.

Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, the 2002 and 2006 Olympic snowboard halfpipe champions, are in different places.

Clark, 34, is trying to break her own record as the oldest U.S. halfpipe rider in Olympic history.

She can also join cross-country skier Kikkan Randall (and potentially Julia Mancuso) in PyeongChang as the only American women to compete in five Winter Olympics.

That should happen.

Clark has a pair of podium finishes from the first three Olympic qualifiers.

She’ll make the PyeongChang team this weekend (or be named the lone available discretionary pick shortly thereafter) barring some crazy finishes at her home halfpipe in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., this week (NBC Sports broadcast schedule at bottom of this post).

Teter, 30, cannot feel as safe.

She finished fifth, ninth and ninth in the three qualifiers so far (and never among the top four Americans).

Four years ago, Teter did not qualify automatically for the Olympic team but was chosen with the lone discretionary spot. She followed her 2006 gold and 2010 silver with a fourth-place finish in Sochi.

Though Sochi gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington retired, the rise of teens Maddie Mastro and Kim put Teter in an even more precarious spot in this Olympic qualifying season.

Simply put, Teter cannot like her Olympic chances unless she wins this week. And she hasn’t won a top-level contest in nearly nine years.

Another Olympic champion is on the ropes in Mammoth. That’s Joss Christensen, the surprise Sochi ski slopestyle gold medalist.

Christensen returned from a May 10 torn ACL and meniscus last week to finish 43rd and 14th in two qualifiers.

He gets two final qualifiers this week to prove he deserves to defend his Olympic title in PyeongChang.

The teammates who joined Christensen on the Sochi podium — Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper — are in much safer shape.

The Olympic qualifying standings and Mammoth broadcast schedule:

Snowboard Halfpipe
Qualifying Standings 
(through three of four events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Shaun White — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)

1. Jake Pates — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
4. Danny Davis — 1,200 (3rd and 3rd)
5. Chase Josey — 1,000 (4th and 4th)
6. Gabe Ferguson — 950 (4th and 5th)

1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Maddie Mastro — 1,600* (2nd and 2nd)
3. Kelly Clark — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100* (3rd and 4th)
5. Hannah Teter — 900 (5th and 5th)
6. Elena Hight — 850 (5th and 6th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against whole field.

Men: Nobody can clinch an automatic spot after White, Pates and Ferguson took them all last week. However, Davis (Sochi Olympian), Josey (fourth at 2017 X Games) and Gabe Ferguson (Ben’s younger brother) know that their results this week will go a long way in the eyes of a selection committee deciding on a possible fourth Olympic team member.

Women: There has been a clear tier system in U.S. women’s halfpipe this season. Kim has been in a class of her own. Then Mastro, Clark and Gold. Then Teter and Hight. Teter and Hight, who made Olympic debuts in 2006 (where Teter won gold), need to not only break into the Mastro-Clark-Gold tier this week, but also likely must beat them all to justify a spot on the Olympic team.

Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle (through four of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000* (2nd and 13th)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)
6. Judd Henkes — 1,100 (3rd and 4th)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600* (1st and 3rd)
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* (2nd and 2nd)
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

Men: Hunt takes the last automatic Olympic spot available if he’s the top American finisher in Mammoth (aside from Corning and Gerard). Stassel is the lone 2014 Olympian in the running (Sochi gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg retired). Henkes, born in 2001, is trying to become the youngest member of the Olympic team across all sports.

Women: It looks like all three Olympic medal favorites are going to PyeongChang. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is in as the top American finisher in the first and third qualifiers. X Games slopestyle champ Marino was the top American in the second qualifier. X Games big air champ Langland was right behind Anderson in the first and third qualifiers. Neither Marino nor Langland made the final last week, which kept Jenson and Walker in the running for automatic spots. But neither Jenson nor Walker has a top-three finish against an entire field yet, keeping them behind Marino and Langland.

Ski Halfpipe (through four of five events)
Three skiers can auto qualify per gender; up to four named to Olympic team
1. David Wise — 200** QUALIFIED
2. Alex Ferreira — 180** (1st and 2nd)
3. Aaron Blunck — 140** (2nd and 3rd)
4. Torin Yater-Wallace — 150* (1st and 4th)
5. Gus Kenworthy — 116* (2nd and 7th)

1. Maddie Bowman — 140** QUALIFIED
2. Devin Logan — 130* (2nd and 4th)
2. Brita Sigourney — 130* (2nd and 4th)
4. Annalisa Drew — 95 (4th and 5th)
5. Carly Margulies — 72 (6th and 7th)
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

Men: Somebody with great credentials is going to be left off the team. As of now, that would either be Yater-Wallace, the three-time X Games medalist who came back from life support to win the first Olympic qualifier last February, or Kenworthy, the Sochi slopestyle silver medalist. In 2014, a committee gave the last spot on the Olympic team to Yater-Wallace over Kenworthy.

Women: The top four in the standings are all Sochi Olympians, but only Bowman has qualified so far and only Logan and Sigourney can clinch in Mammoth. Drew should be safe for the potential fourth spot if she finishers higher than Margulies this week, but she wasn’t able to do that in either of the last two qualifiers.

Ski Slopestyle (women through four of five events; men through three of five)
Three skiers can auto qualify per gender; up to four named to Olympic team
1. Maggie Voisin — 180** QUALIFIED

2. Devin Logan — 90 (4th and 6th)
3. Darian Stevens — 81 (5th and 7th)
4. Julia Krass — 72 (4th and 12th)
5. Taylor Lundquist — 65 (7th and 9th)

1. Nick Goepper — 160** (2nd and 2nd)
2. Gus Kenworthy — 140* (1st and 6th)
3. McRae Williams — 79 (4th and 9th)
3. Quinn Wolferman — 79 (4th and 9th)
5. Alex Hall — 57 (5th and 19th)
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

Women: Nobody can clinch an Olympic spot because nobody other than Voisin made a podium in the first four qualifiers. Voisin, Logan and Krass all made the Sochi team (Logan took silver). Stevens just missed the team in 2014.

Men: Anything can happen with two of the five qualifiers to be held this weekend. None of the men who swept the Sochi podium are 100 percent safe, though Goepper has to like his chances. Kenworthy, too, after a much-needed win in Snowmass, Colo., last week. The man absent from the above standings is gold medalist Joss Christensen. He returned from a May 10 torn ACL and meniscus last week to finish 43rd and 14th in two qualifiers.

Mammoth Finals (all times Eastern)
Friday

Ski Halfpipe — 9:30-11 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)

Saturday
Ski Slopestyle (#1) — 12:30-2 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
Snowboard Slopestyle — 5-6 p.m. (NBC, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)
Snowboard Halfpipe — 9:30-11 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)

Sunday
Ski Slopestyle (#2) — 4:30-6 p.m. (NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app)

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