Jack Coyne makes first World Cup appearance at snowboarding Grand Prix in Copper
COPPER MOUNTAIN — Months of training, anticipation and building excitement, all to drop into the halfpipe and fall on your butt a couple of times.
It’s a rite of passage 16-year-old Jack Coyne endured with a smile on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix competition and FIS World Cup.
It was Coyne’s first-ever Grand Prix appearance, and he dressed for the occasion, wearing a thrift store Christmas sweater.
“It’s pretty awesome to be here, I’m stoked,” he said.
Coyne got to compete alongside Jake Pates and Ryan Wachendorfer, two Eagle County locals who he grew up with and has watched compete for years.
“I’ve always looked up to them,” Coyne said.
GETTING INTO IT
Pates, 20, and Wachendorfer, 22, said the season had a different feel than years past, a typical atmosphere for a post-Olympic year but not one the young U.S. Team members have experienced before.
“You look at the field and there’s a bunch of names missing that you usually see — Shaun, Danny, iPod, Ben — so I think there’s definitely some doors opening,” Wachendorfer said.
Pates said he has seen some of his teammates on the U.S. halfpipe snowboarding team learning new tricks in recent months.
“I think a lot of people are going to bring some new stuff to snowboarding,” Pates said.
Wachendorfer said the team had a good training camp in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, over the summer, which was helpful.
“We were there for two sessions of halfpipe riding, with three weeks of really good weather,” Wachendorfer said. “So it was really helpful.”
Wachendorfer’s season was abbreviated last year when he fractured couple of bones in his arm during the Dew Tour halfpipe contest.
While he was able to return in time for the end of the season, Wachendorfer said the practice time this summer helped him feel comfortable with his halfpipe riding again for this season.
Nevertheless, this week “we’ve probably had six hours total to ride the halfpipe, so getting right into it is kind of tough,” Wachendorfer said.
Wachendorfer landed a couple of solid runs, but was bumped into sixth in his heat, where the top five qualified into Saturday, Dec. 8’s finals.
Pates made it through in fourth place.
Pates said he was on his usual mission, to have fun, but he was also keeping an eye on what the rest of the field was up to.
“There’s some new people in the mix,” Pates said. “I’m seeing new names here people I’ve never even heard of throwing down so there’s that, too. It’s always progressing, new people coming in.”
Elias Allenspach was among the new names to crack through to finals. The 17-year-old Swiss rider is already guaranteed his best-ever finish in a World Cup by getting through to Saturday’s finals.
While Coyne wasn’t among the new names to land a clean run, his cheering section was the loudest, as some of his friends from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail made the trip up to Copper to support their teammate.
Coach Casey Lehmicke said he was glad to see Coyne have a couple of controlled falls while attempting some big tricks.
“I often tell the kids once they get a fall or two out of the way they can really start riding,” Lehmicke said.
It was a statement echoed by Pates.
“I’m just stoked to see (Coyne) on the U.S. Team this year, joining the program, and here in the Grand Prix,” Pates said. “He’s been progressing so fast.”
Watch Pates on nbcsports.com starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday.