American Graham Watanabe Wins World Cup Snowboardcross

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 28, 2009 7:45 am

First he got a perm this season—then he shaved it off. Or one day you might catch him in a big, pink, foam cowboy hat, another in an 80’s style one-piece ski suit. But what really set American snowboard star Graham Watanabe (Sun Valley, ID) apart today was his World Cup win at the 2009 Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup today at the Sunday River Resort in Maine.

Watanabe recently scored a silver medal at the Visa Snowboardcross Championship Series stop at Boreal Resort in California, yet hadn’t won gold this season until today. And now, the athlete plans to take the rest of the season off, and prepare for the 2010 Olympic Games. "This was so ideal I couldn’t have written it any better," Watanabe said of his solid gold finale. "It’s a fairytale ending to a pretty darned good season."

Watanabe had been struggling a bit in training, and hadn’t had luck with the Sunday River course. “I am pretty surprised right now. I have not run this course well since we got here. I qualified for finals in 22nd. But it all fell into place and it was meant to be," Watanabe said.

Perhaps the bigger surprise of the day came from 2002 Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers, who finished third. Sure, he’s been a snowboarding rock star, but Powers’ medal was in the half-pipe event. In fact, the Sunday River World Cup was the first of Powers’ boardercross racing career. “I couldn’t ask for anything more today,” Powers said, of working his way back onto the team for a different event. “To get on the podium in my first World Cup, I am so excited."

"The U.S. guys have all been helping me out and letting me follow them. Since Graham is going to take a little bit of a break, I get to go on to the next World Cups. I made my plane ticket through the finals in Italy and I had to get into the top 50 before then, so this should help me out," Powers said.

Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, VT) led the U.S. women as usual, though this time the frequent winner didn’t lead the pack, and finished fourth. "Right off the bat I went horribly wrong off the first feature and I was chasing after the girls the rest of the way down. I was just gritting my teeth and trying to make aggressive moves," Jacobellis said. "Mellie [Francon, Switzerland] and I just kept clicking each other and then I backed off.  It’s not worth getting hurt because I was all over the place. I don’t need to take out another rider because I respect these women. It wasn’t my day, it was Maelle’s [Ricker, Canada]."

The home-country World Cup also counted toward the U.S. National Championship, and Watanabe and Jacobellis walked away with the titles.

photos: Graham Watanabe, USSA/Peter Foley



Sunday River, ME – Feb. 28, 2009

1. Graham Watanabe, Sun Valley, ID

2. Lukas Gruener, Austria

3. Ross Powers, Londonderry, VT

4. Robert Fagan, Canada

5. David Speiser, Germany

–7. Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, ME

8. Robert Minghini, South Lake Tahoe, CA

11. Nick Baumgartner, Iron River, MI

12. Jason Smith, Basalt, CO

15. Jayson Hale, Sierraville, CA

18. Jonathan Cheever, Saugus, MA

20. Alex Deibold, Manchester Center, VT

21. Nate Holland, Squaw Valley, CA

23. Shaun Palmer, South Lake Tahoe, CA

27. Pat Holland, Squaw Valley, CA

29. Chelone Miller, Franconia, NH


1. Maelle Ricker, Canada

2. Helene Olafsen, Norway

3. Mellie Francon, Switzerland

4. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton Mountain, VT

5. Zoe Gillings, Great Britain

13. Marni Yamada, Seattle, WA