Friday, June 24, 2005

Watanabe, Galpin race in Mammoth qualifiers

Boardercross boys chase World Cup starts


By MICHAEL AMES
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Graham Watanabe and Nate Galpin might be winter athletes, but that doesn't exactly mean June is a month off for the former Sun Valley Snowboard Team racers.

As the two Hailey residents set their sites on fall World Cup events and entertain glimmers of Olympic hopes—the 2006 Winter Games will be held at Torino, Italy in February—they'll settle into a routine of hard training and mutual motivation.

The summer gear-up began with the U.S. Snowboard team's World Cup qualifier summer camp, this year held at California's Mammoth Mountain, June 6-15. Headed into camp, Watanabe was ranked third on the U.S. boardercross team. Galpin was ranked eighth.

The camp pitted over 20 World Cup caliber American boardercross racers against each other in eight consecutive time trials. By week's end, the top two racers with the fastest averages from their top two performances automatically qualified for the season's first three World Cup races in Chile and Switzerland.

For Watanabe, his fate came down to the very last run.

After racing well all week and holding onto second place, Watanabe watched as "the only possible scenario that could have knocked me out of that spot, happened."

"I came in third," he said.

Despite the unlucky draw, Watanabe realized that boardercross is a volatile game.

"With all the variables, the unthinkable can happen...it's part of the game," he said.

Nonetheless, Watanabe has maintained his third position on the U.S. Boardercross team and will travel to Chile in late summer as an alternate for the World Cup at Valle Nevado, the scene of his first and only World Cup win in 2004.

"I rode really well against all the American riders," Watanabe said about the Mammoth camp.

Galpin also had a successful week at Mammoth, finishing fifth overall and improving his overall position.

About his week in Mammoth, Galpin said "I feel like I made huge strides." The competition was some of the stiffest he had ever faced and Galpin felt "awesome to be running against the best in the nation and be right in the thick of it."

For Galpin, this was his first time back on snow since an April FIS win it Zermatt, Switz.

"It was difficult to hold the intensity level up with such a long break," he said.

Nonetheless, Galpin realized the high pressure situation of Mammoth's races. "It was make or break for some guys leading up to the Olympics," he said, still holding onto hopes of making it to Torino.

Galpin and Watanabe will be moving to Salt Lake City in the coming weeks as they establish a routine of focused training and testing both in Salt Lake City and at numerous Park City facilities.




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