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Monday, January 14, 2002
After slow start, Czeschin rounding into form

Associated Press

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. -- A 10th-place finish at the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix was enough for Tommy Czeschin to wrap up a spot on the American Olympic halfpipe team Sunday.

Czeschin joined Danny Kass and Tricia Byrnes in securing one of six spots on the team. In earlier competitions, 18-year-old Kelly Clark and 1998 Olympic bronze medalists Shannon Dunn and Ross Powers had already clinched their spots.

Clark won the women's competition on Sunday, and J.J. Thomas won the men's side. Another spot on the halfpipe team will likely be awarded when the team is finalized Jan. 29, and Thomas is in position to earn it -- he tied with Czeschin and Kass in Olympic qualifying, but fell out of the top three because of a tiebreaker.

For Czeschin, making the Olympics isn't much of a surprise -- he's one of the groundbreakers of the sport. Still, a slow start to the Olympic qualifying season made it tough. He rebounded with a third-place finish at a Grand Prix event last week in Oregon, and won the first event in Breckenridge on Thursday.

"I think with a little more training, I'm going to have a chance at a medal in the Olympics," Czeschin said.

He's one of the few riders who can pull a 1080 -- three full spins -- in competition, although he didn't try it Sunday. Czeschin finished 10th, but still secured his spot because none of those who could have beaten him out placed high enough to do it.

Dunn has had her spot secured for about a month now, on the strength of victories in the first two Olympic qualifying events. She finished fourth Sunday, after skipping last week in Oregon.

"I think it's more advantageous, for sure," she said. "It's kind of weird. It seems like the longer I take off, the better I do."