By Rory Carroll
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, California (Reuters) – U.S. men’s slopestyle skiers Nick Goepper and Gus Kenworthy will both be returning to the Olympics next month after qualifying for the team during competitions on Sunday in Mammoth Mountain.
Goepper qualified during the first final of the day, which was also a World Cup event, when he finished eighth and no other Americans made the podium.
The 23-year-old’s second place finishes in Breckenridge last month and at events in Snowmass last weekend were enough to secure him the spot.
Goepper, the bronze medalist in Sochi during the inaugural slopestyle competition, scored 88.20 on his second run on Sunday in the World Cup event, six points behind Canada’s Teal Harle.
Swiss teenager Andri Ragettli finished second with 92.60, while Canada’s Evan McEachran was third on 91.40.
“It felt great to be able to say I’m on the way to my second Olympics,” said Goepper. “It’s not something a lot of 23-year-olds can say.
“It’s nice to reminisce on the last four years and to have it culminate into another games is great.”
Kenworthy also made the team with a second place finish in the second men’s competition of the day, which U.S. officials were using as the final slopestyle qualifying event before the Games.
The 26-year-old silver medalist in freestyle skiing in Sochi scored 94.80. McEachran won with 96.40 while Goepper was third with 93.20.
“The last Olympics went by in a flash, a whirlwind,” said Kenworthy.
“This time I want to soak up the experience, really be there for it and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
The U.S. women’s team, however, was still to be decided after Sunday’s competitions with Maggie Voisin the only athlete to have previously qualified.
Caroline Claire made a strong case to be added to the team after her third place finish on Sunday, which marked the 17-year-old’s first Olympic qualifying podium after she scored an 85.00 on the first of her two runs.
She finished behind Norway’s Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen of Norway and Sweden’s Jennie-Lee Burmansson.
Taylor Lundquist also made her case to be named to the U.S. team with a fifth place finish in the World Cup event.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)