Kelly Clark and Gretchen Bleiler celebrate season opening podiums in the New Zealand Winter Games, the opening halfpipe of the FIS Snowboard World Cup season. (Getty Images-Hannah Johnston)
CARDRONA, New Zealand (Aug. 24) - Kelly Clark (W. Dover, VT) opened the Sochi Olympic season with a win in the Audi Quattro New Zealand Winter Games halfpipe Saturday. Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO) was third in the first FIS Snowboard World Cup halfpipe of the season. It was a reassuring victory for Clark, who survived a first run fall to come back for the win. Bleiler, meanwhile, picked up an emotional podium - her first in two seasons, coming back from injury to establish herself as a strong candidate for Sochi. Ayumo Hirano of Japan won for the men with Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) fifth.
Kelly Clark (W. Dover, VT) survived a first run fall to open the Sochi Olympic season with a FIS Snowboard World Cup halfpipe win in Cardrona at the Audi Quattro New Zealand Winter Games. Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO) was third.
The win matched Clark's opening victory in Cardrona a year ago.
Bleiler's third marked a return to the podium for the first time in two seasons, coming back from injury.
Ayumo Hirano led three Japanese men into the top four with a win. Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) was fifth.
The weather was clear, after multiple days of socked in weather and cold temperatures
Kelly Clark Winning Run: Frontside air, backside 540 mute, frontside 1080 lien, cab 720 mute, frontside stalefish
QUOTES Kelly Clark I'm really happy that the weather held off for us and we were able to have good training yesterday and a great final today. I was happy to overcome a first run fall. It's never ideal but it's a great practice. I thought, if this is happening at the Olympics as it happened to me before, what a great opportunity to have to come out and land a good run. And that's exactly what I was able to do. Knowing I can do this is great. I'm happy with my snowboarding and where it's at.
I'm a very goal orientated person and will definitely chase down my tricks. I've yet to be doing nines and tens in the summertime consistently. I always judge myself off of how I was doing this time last year and I've made progress and grown a lot in my snowboarding so I'm right on track to progress into Sochi this year.
Gretchen Bleiler I'm super stoked. It's been a while since I've been on the podium with my big accident and it's been exciting. The shape of this halfpipe has been amazing. I like it here. Going down to Wanaka each day has been beautiful.
Mike Jankowski, Head Coach We are so happy for Gretchen to get back up on the podium where she belongs. She has been working so hard to get her snowboard game back on track. The way she rode today proves that she is still one of the best in the world and has Sochi firmly locked in her sights.