Bidez has ‘5’ down and looks to final four
MINTURN – Five is shaping up to be an important number for Clair Bidez.The 18-year-old from Minturn recently perfected her backside 540 in the halfpipe, has broken her arms five times while snowboarding and has five chances to qualify for the Olympics this season.A week ago, Bidez landed her best-ever World Cup halfpipe result with a sixth place in Saas Fee, Switzerland.Since joining the U.S. Snowboard Team last season, Bidez has become something of a jet-setter. After graduating from Battle Mountain High School last spring, Bidez has been to New Zealand, Chile, Europe, and will be leaving the valley in the next few days for a camp in Mammoth Mountain, Calif. And that’s just the beginning.”The trip to Chile was my first time in South America,” Bidez said. “It was so beautiful. In New Zealand, I was riding at Snow Park, pretty much the whole mountain is a park and there’s a really good halfpipe cut by (Winter X Games’ fame) Frank Wells.”At Snow Park, Bidez accomplished something that has been two years in the making and has cost her two broken bones – the backside 5.”I was really happy. I was finally able to get it up to par,” Bidez said. “I’d landed them before. But it was a matter of really, truly comitting to it and deciding I was going to do it, then doing it over and over again. Getting the backside 5 was pretty much a mental thing.”What’s this about a backside?The backside 5 is a difficult trick because it involves a blind take-off into the 540-degree spin off the pipe wall and an odd rotation (one and a half times around for those not well-versed in math). When Bidez first began focusing on the trick about two years ago, she fell and broke her tailbone. Then, last year, she fell and broke her arm (for the fifth time in her snowboarding career). But going into last week’s contest in Saas Fee, Bidez launched into the backside 5 as her first trick, then followed up with a frontside 5, a frontside 720 and a cab 360.”Doing well in Saas Fee makes me even more driven,” said Bidez, who started snowboarding at the age of 9 in the footsteps of her younger brother, Dylan, simply to “do something cool” with her friends. “I think I’m finally figuring out the mental side of it,” she said. “Physically, I can do all the tricks that anyone else can. It’s just a matter of believing in myself.”Bidez practices visualization before each run through the pipe, and while she loves listening to “mellow” music like Jack Johnson to prime her for a contest, she’s not one to jinx herself with the wrong tune while doing a run.”I’m always visualizing what I’m going to do,” she said. “I tell myself, ‘I know I can do this.’ I have to completely trust myself, that’s what I found works best. A few minutes before a compeition, while I’m still walk around at the top (of the pipe), I find a quiet place and turn my back to everything. I just like to take a minute to think. Listening to music during a competition seems like another way to ruin a run. You could choose the wrong song.”The five Olympic halfpipe qualifiers are the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prixs, the first two of which take place in Breckenridge Dec. 13-17, then in Mount Bachelor, Ore., at the beginning of January and the final two in Mountain Creek, N.J., Jan. 20-21. Bidez said the top-two rankings are taken from the series and World Cup events and four athletes are selected to represent the U.S. at the Olympic halfpipe this February in Bardonecchia, Italy.The final fourBidez speculates that the U.S. Olympic Halfpipe Team could likely consist of Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, 2002 Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark, U.S. Team superstar Hannah Teter and three-time Grand Prix champion Lindsey Jacobellis. But really, she feels the final four are still to be determined.”I’d say it’s still a toss up,” she said. “There are still so many good riders. It depends on who has a good day and who has a bad day. Those four are some of the most consistent riders. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better than the others. It really comes down to who has the best rankings.”Bidez is familiar with the Olympic halfpipe. She took 10th last year in the Bardonecchia World Cup and put in some extra visualizing as to her future there.”I was definitly thinking what it would be like (during the Olympics) – imagining the crowds, where the bleachers would go …” she said. “Even if I don’t go to the Olympics in 2006, I want to try for 2010. I’ve grown up watching the Olympics and really, really admiring all the athletes. I want to have a chance to be a role model like that.”Bidez said one trick she will have to perfect to be an Olympic contender is a frontside 900. For a compact person standing just over five feet tall and weighing in at 110, Bidez has an uncanny knack to throw herself high above the halfpipe walls.”My goals right now are really just to progress as much as I can,” she said. “I want to satisfy myself with my own riding before I think about going to the Olympics. Of course, I’d be SO happy to go. It’s something I’m trying to do. My first priority is to get my feet under me and ride as best as I can.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.