MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) — There was little time to reflect on what happened to injured snowboarder Kevin Pearce.
Less than a week after he suffered a serious head injury in a training accident in Utah, the world’s top halfpipe riders came to Mammoth Mountain for the second U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, the second of five events that will determine the American Olympic halfpipe team.
While respectful and concerned for Pearce, whose condition was upgraded from critical to serious Wednesday, the competitors didn’t modify or scale back their repertoire of highly technical tricks in the halfpipe.
In fact, Kelly Clark and Danny Davis won Wednesday by pushing the envelope of their sport. Clark secured an Olympic spot with this, her second win of the season.
“The only way we can really help that kid right now is to do well,” Davis said about his friend, Pearce. “We travel all year together, so it’s been a really trying last week just hearing about his status.”
Judges could find little wrong with their runs as Clark won with a score of 48.4 and Davis topped the men with a 49.2, a run that included a rare feat: three double-cork jumps — double back flips with a series of different twists.
On the winner’s podium, Davis held up a sign that said, “Pearce Be With You.”
Davis and Shaun White, the 2006 Olympic champion and Wednesday’s runner-up, are among the riders who have elevated their runs this winter, modifying their two-revolution tricks by backflipping twice instead of twisting.
“Every Olympic year there is a push on the progression side of things and we’re witnessing them at these events,” Clark said. “The guys doing them are the most capable snowboarders in the world, and they are very well-trained and very well-prepared. The sport will keep progressing, and I think we are going to keep seeing more and more difficult tricks.”
Hannah Teter finished second after a shoulder injury kept her out of the opening Grand Prix last month at Copper Mountain, Colo.
She said Pearce’s injury had a big impact, and gave her greater focus.
“It really shows how dangerous the sport is, that you are riding basically an ice chunk,” said Teter, the 2006 Olympic champion. “It’s so hard to see one of your friends fall, and it’s a reminder that you have to be on and in the zone.”
Davis said his friend’s injury was a frightful reminder that he is in a dangerous sport, but shouldn’t be taken as a sign to scale things back.
“This can happen to anybody, anywhere. You can catch your edge just riding down the slope and smash your face,” Davis said. “Kevin was trying a really heavy trick. The last thing Kevin would want is for us to stop trying those tricks, not snowboard and be all scared. We have to keep that in mind that he wants us to keep doing what we’re doing.”