Local confident at Winter X Games | VailDaily.com

Local confident at Winter X Games

Richard Chittick

The locals competing in the Winter X Games VIII in Aspen this weekend are carrying a definite swagger into the event.

Snowboard legend Todd Richards and up-and-comer Steve Fisher will be competing in the snowboard superpipe competition as part of the Breckenridge Freeride Team.

From the other side of the Tenmile Range, Copper Mountain Freeride Team’s Nick Mercon is competing skiing slopestyle, Greg Tuffelmire in skiing superpipe and Dena Melinn will thrash in boardercross.

Rounding out the Summit County entourage is Alisa Mokler, representing Keystone’s K-Funk Superstars.

And from Vail, snowboard-sweethearts Barrett Christy and Megan Pischke will be making the trip.

The confidence of the athletes overflowed in interviews earlier this week, and it should have, as all are on top of their game.

Just ask Melinn if she can win the women’s boardercross competition, which concludes on Sunday.

“I’m saying “yeah,'” said the Silverthorne resident who is competing in the games for the fourth time. “I’ve been doing it a long time, I’ve got experience under my belt and the calm nerves.”

Melinn’s teammate, Nick Mercon, is right there with her.

“I’m pretty confident in what I’ve got going on,” said Mercon, who will be competing in his third X Games. “Going to the X Games is pretty sweet. I guess it’s a compliment to know that me and 19 other (slopestyle) guys are the best guys in the world as of right now in the sport of freeskiing.”

Fisher’s confidence comes from his top-five finishes at Grand Prix events this season, and by taking first in the Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding on his home turf at Breckenridge in December.

“It’s one of the biggest events of the year,” Fisher said. “I love being a part of it, and I want to do well.”

Fisher’s X-rays negative

On Thursday, Fisher learned that X-rays following a fall during a European competition last week were negative.

“Everything’s fine and it’s good news for us,” said Fisher’s agent, Derek Tanis.

Now Fisher is ready and is considered a favorite to make the snowboard superpipe finals.

“This competition really requires the best tricks,” Fisher said. “(The superpipe) is always perfect. It was perfect last year, and it’s going to be perfect this year.”

Fisher isn’t alone in nursing injuries, as Mercon bruised his heels in the Copper Mountain terrain park two weeks ago while Fisher thought this week he may have had a stress fracture in his leg. Both athletes are still planning on competing.

“It put a three-week damper on me,” Mercon said. “(It) kind of set me back a little bit, but I’ve been out there every day for the last couple of weeks getting dialed in.”

All of the athletes have been working on their mental game, as well as the technical skill of their specialty.

“For me it’s 90 percent mental,” Melinn said. “The riding is there, it’s just being confident and charging.”

Melinn is counting on the four years of X Games experience that she has.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get in,” she said. “There are only 18 invited (in women’s boardercross), so just to continue to be in there four years straight is pretty cool.”

Mokler’s X-rays positive

Though it didn’t happen last week in Europe, Mokler’s situation is even more unique as she attempts to take on the world’s best snowboarders in the superpipe with a broken arm.

“I’m just going to go ride it and have fun,” she said. “I don’t expect to be very competitive. Having a cast up my arm doesn’t help.”

The Mammoth Lakes, Calif., native who now lives in Silverthorne injured herself during the Vans Triple Crown slopestyle competition in Breckenridge in December. The injury came after she had already qualified for the X Games superpipe competition.

This was the same competition that Gretchen Bleiler suffered a torn ligament in her knee, which put her out for the season.

Qualifying begins today

Melinn is the first of the athletes to compete this weekend, with the boardercross qualifying beginning today at 9 a.m.

Richards and Fisher are up next with the snowboard superpipe preliminary rounds beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Vail’s Pischke and Christy are competing in the superpipe training today and 5 p.m.

Mercon has to wait until Sunday, when the skiing slopestyle prelims begin at 11 a.m. Tuffelmire has all weekend to prepare as skiing superpipe prelims don’t start until Monday morning at 9.

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.

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