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U.S. Olympic snowboarding team to be decided after 'marathon' week

U.S. Olympic snowboarding team to be decided after 'marathon' week
Louie Vito does a practice run before the start of men's halfpipe qualifications for the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on Jan. 8 in Breckenridge, Colo. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

MAMMOTH LAKES -- American snowboarders face a few busy -- and crucial -- days at Mammoth Mountain this week. As halfpipe rider Louie Vito said, "Get ready for a marathon."

Starting Thursday, Olympic hopefuls in halfpipe and slopestyle will compete in three qualifying finals over four days at the Mammoth Lakes resort.

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The flurry of competition will determine who gets to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Games next month.

American officials had planned to hold a series of five qualifiers at various locations but bad weather interrupted a recent competition in Breckenridge, Colo. Athletes lobbied to have their qualifying runs from that event counted but were denied.

So the last three qualifiers are being squeezed into four days at Mammoth.

"We looked at multiple options, including the possibility of just going with four events, but knew that the most consistent way to fairly select the best Olympic team was sticking with the plan and running replacement events," said Jeremy Forster, a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn. executive.

Slopestyle begins with two finals on Thursday and finishes with one on Saturday. Halfpipe has two finals on Friday and one on Sunday.

Announcement of team nominations will follow.

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