Making the U.S. Olympic team in snowboard halfpipe is no easy feat.
For everyone other than Shaun White, Ben Ferguson and Jake Pates, things just got even harder.
Those three riders — White, Ferguson and Pates — all clinched spots on the Olympic team after last week’s selection event at Snowmass. That means that only one potential spot on the team is still available, and that’s the discretionary spot determined by the coaches.
So although no one can actually qualify for the team at this week’s U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth, the final selection event for the Olympic halfpipe team, it will still be an important contest. This is the last chance for the riders not yet qualified to impress the coaches and earn that discretionary spot.
But who will receive that final spot on the team? The current frontrunners appear to be Danny Davis and Chase Josey, though there’s also a few dark horse contenders who could be in contention if they have a strong showing at Mammoth.
Here’s a look at the top candidates, as of now, that might be considered for the fourth and final spot.
Davis is renowned for the style he brings to the halfpipe. That style is particularly evident in his version of the McTwist, in which he accentuates the trick by going huge and tweaking a Japan grab. Although he likes to mix up his competition runs frequently, that McTwist has become arguably his signature trick and is usually included somewhere in his runs.
Aside from being a 2014 Olympian, Davis is also a two-time X Games gold medalist. He won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
Of the athletes not yet qualified for the team, Davis has been the most consistent performer at the selection events. He was the third best American at the first two qualifiers and fifth best at the most recent one.
Josey is one of the most technical riders in the entire field. He’s known for doing difficult switch tricks on both walls of the halfpipe throughout his runs and is doing tricks that other riders aren’t, such as the switch double crippler and the switch double Michalchuk.
Last year, Josey was being rewarded by the judges for his creativity and technicality. He finished the season ranked No. 3 in the World Snowboard Tour standings and No. 2 in the FIS World Cup standings.
Like Davis, Josey has been among the top five U.S. riders at all three selection events, but Davis’s results have been slightly better so far.
The younger brother of Ben Ferguson, 18-year-old Gabe is also looking to make his first Olympic team.
It was a good start to the season for Gabe, who was fourth and fifth among Americans at the first two selection events. But he finished 23rd overall and missed the final at last week’s qualifier at Snowmass.
Bretz is an Olympic veteran, having made the U.S. team in 2010 and 2014. Both times he went to the Winter Games, he made the final and finished 12th.
During the Olympic qualifying period, Bretz has been a steady performer, finishing eighth at the first selection event, then ninth at the next two. He was the sixth best American at all three events.
All discretionary picks for the Olympic snowboard team are expected to be announced sometime next week.