The race for 2018 U.S. Olympic team spots is nearing the home stretch, and Rigby snowboarder Jessika Jenson is still in contention.
The 2009 Rigby High School graduate and 2014 U.S. Olympian placed fifth in Friday’s women snowboard slopestyle finals at the Toyota Grand Prix at Aspen Snowmass Resort in Colorado, the next-to-last Olympic qualifying event. The 26 year-old entered Friday’s finals in first place with the top score — an 89.75 — from Wednesday’s qualifying round.
Low visibility from heavy snow pushed back Friday’s start time by almost an hour, and the final jump of the slopestyle course was eliminated due to the conditions. Several snowboarders fell off the first rail and crashed after the first or second jumps. Jenson moved from sixth place to third after receiving a score of 64.16 for her second run, sticking the landing off the first rail, completing a cab-5 on the first jump and landing a backside 360. She dropped to fifth place as other snowboarders completed their third and final runs, and she stayed in fifth place after receiving a score of 46.39 for her third run.
Her fifth-place finish led the U.S. women, however, and she received 450 World Cup points for it. Friday was her second time this season making the top-10 at a World Cup event and first time making the top five.
The final Olympic qualifying event is next weekend’s Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., with the women’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying round scheduled for Thursday and finals scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20. The 2018 U.S. Olympic team rosters for freeski slopestyle, freeski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle will be named upon conclusion of the finals at Mammoth. The 2018 Winter Olympics begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Entering the Aspen qualifier, only three snowboarders had clinched spots on the U.S. Olympic team: Chloe Kim (halfpipe), Chris Corning (slopestyle) and 2014 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson (slopestyle). Up to four U.S. women will be selected for the 2018 U.S. Olympic snowboarding team to compete big air and slopestyle. Athletes can clinch a spot by making the podium at an Olympic qualifier. World Cup points are also a factor.
Jenson’s fifth-place finish Friday moved her to seventh place in the FIS World Cup women’s slopestyle snowboard world leaderboard with a total of 670 World Cup points. Jenson is the second highest ranked American in the world slopestyle standings behind Anderson, who is No. 3 with 1,000 World Cup points. In the overall FIS snowboard World Cup standings, which combine World Cup points from all snowboarding disciplines, Jenson is 24th with 1,120 points from slopestyle and big air. Anderson (No. 11 with 1,500 points) and Julia Marino (No. 22 with 1,180 points) are ahead of her.