Bellingham High School aluma Angeli VanLaanen placed sixth overall at the women's freeskiing halfpipe final on Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix presented by The North Face in Breckenridge, Colo., to keep alive her dreams of qualifying for the team the United States will send to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
VanLaanen had a final-round score of 73.00 and was the fourth-highest American women's finisher in the event.
California native Maddie Bowman won the event with a score of 84.00. It was Bowman's second win in the five events the U.S. Ski Team is using to determine its Olympic competitors, as she locked up the first of three spots for Sochi.
Adverse weather twice forced FIS officials to reschedule the final, and snow fell on the halfpipe during competition, as athletes helped event staff keep the halfpipe clear of snow in between runs. Japan's Ayana Onozuka and Australia's Amy Sheehan finished second and third, respectively.
Sunday's event marked the third of the five Olympic qualifying events. Qualification is scheduled to wrap with two more halfpipe finals at the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix in Park City, Utah, on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18.
VanLaanen currently stands third in the Olympic qualifying standings with 175 points behind Bowman (280) and Brita Sigourney (240) of Carmel, Calif. Sigourney won the second qualifying event last month at Copper Mountain, Colo. Annalisa Drew, of Andover, Mass., and Devin Logan, of West Dover, Vt., currently are tied for fourth with 155 points.
VanLaanen kicked her qualification effort off with a strong second-place showing in the first qualifying event on Dec. 13. She later placed eighth at Copper Mountain in the second qualifying event despite battling the flu, according to her Twitter posts.
This will be the first year that the Olympics will stage contests in the freeskiing events of halfpipe and slopestyle.
VanLaanen's resume includes halfpipe wins at the Vermont Open in 2005 and 2006 and the New Zealand Open in 2007. She also claimed a World Cup Superpipe title at Park City, in 2009 and made the X-Games Superpipe finals in 2007-09.
But she had to shut things down competitively for three years so she could receive treatment when doctors diagnosed her with Lyme disease from a tick bite she had suffered when she was a child.
VanLaanen, who grew up on the slopes at Mt. Baker Ski Area and graduated from Bellingham High in 2004 but now lives and trains in Salt Lake City, returned to competition last year and grabbed three top-three finishes in North Face Open competitions, a sixth-place finish at a World Championship in Oslo, Norway, and finished ninth overall on the World Halfpipe AFP points list.
Sunday's final also marked the end of the FIS World Cup halfpipe tour, and Logan was crowned champion with 186 points. Bowman (180) finished second, with VanLaanen the third-highest American in fifth with 152 points. Sheehan (170) was third, while Switzerland's Mirjam Jaeger (153) was fourth.
THE ROAD TO SOCHI
Two more scheduled events remain in the qualification process for the team the United States will send to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics to compete in the women's freeskiing halfpipe - the first time the event is staged. The final two qualifying events are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18, at Park City, Utah. A look at the current standings:
Athlete Hometown Dec. 13 Dec. 20 Jan. 12 Total points
Maddie Bowman* South Lake Tahoe, Calif. 100 80 100 280
Brita Sigourney Carmel, Calif. 60 100 80 240
Angeli VanLaanen Bellingham 80 45 50 175
Annalisa Drew Andover, Mass. 45 50 60 155
Devin Logan West Dover, Vt. 50 60 45 155
Jeanne Crane-Mauzy Waterville Valley, N.H. 29 40 40 109
Abigale Hansen Mammoth Lakes, Calif. 32 29 36 97
Zyre Austin Glenwood Springs, Colo. 26 36 32 94
Isable Atkin Newton, Mass. 24 32 0 56
Kimmy Sharp Park City, Utah 20 0 29 49
Jamie Crane-Mauzy Park city, Utah 40 0 0 40
Jen Hudak Park City, Utah 36 0 0 36
Maggie Stout Blue Mountain, Pa. 22 0 0 22
Hannah Haupt Sun Valley, Idaho 0 0 0 0
*Clinched spot on U.S. Olympic team