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Spriggs transcends pre-contest jitters

Shauna Farnell
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Vail local John Spriggs gets inverted during his fifth-place U.S. Open halfpipe run in January's U.S. Freeski Open in Vail. Spriggs is one of a handful of local athletes that will compete in the Gravity Games at Copper Mountain this week.
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VAIL – Before John Spriggs clears a slopestyle course or a halfpipe wall he first likes to clear his head of expectations.This is how he landed a fifth-place finish in January among the whittled-down field of elite freeskiers in the 2005 U.S. Open superpipe event at Vail.

“Pretty much, I went in with not much expectation,” he said of the event. “Once I got into the finals, I started realizing I could be top-10 or top-five. Some of my best runs happen when I’m not really even thinking about it.”Maybe this is why the 16-year-old Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athlete isn’t putting a lot of thought into his performance in the Gravity Games, which begin Thursday at Copper Mountain. The event is considered to be a smaller version of the Winter X Games, and only invites a handful of qualified skiers and snowboarders to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle and cross racing.Along with Eric Archer, Clair Bidez, Jamie Sundberg and Claudia Bouvier, Spriggs is local athlete who landed a qualification. He accomplished this when he took second in last month’s Core Freeski Tour slopestyle at Breckenridge and also landed a wildcard entry into the Gravity Games halfpipe contest. Unlike the U.S. Open, which puts an initial field of dozens of athletes through several qualifiers, picking off all but the top candidates to emerge into the finals, athletes get just one chance to shine in front of the judges in the Gravity Games.”I think it’s going to be cool to have a lot of big names,” Spriggs said. “The U.S. Open has a lot of athletes and you really have to go through a lot to qualify. You have to beat out hundreds of kids. The X Games is a lot less athletes. It gets people with a better name.”

All of those names – the Tanner Halls, the Jon Olssons, the Shaun Whites and Kelly Clarks – will be in attendance at the Gravity Games. Spriggs, who recently returned from the American Freeski Tour in California, isn’t somebody who lets a little thing like being up against big names go to his head. “It’s going to be like any event,” he said. “My plan is to do as well as I can. I do best when I roll up to the start gate and I haven’t put any pressure on myself and just ski for fun.”Most of Spriggs’ training has been through competitions. But he said he plans to throw a 1080 in each of his slopestyle and halfpipe runs and maybe a switch right-side 900, which he is very close to landing. He said the jumps on the slopestyle course at Copper have 60-foot tabletops and the pipe has a lot of pitch to it, so getting enough air to spin shouldn’t be a problem. “It’s definitely steeper than Vail’s,” he said of the pipe. “Judges really like amplitude, but it’s hard to keep your style together when you’re going so high. But I heard it’s a jam format, so I can mess around and throw a few different runs.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily


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