Graham Watanabe qualifies for U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 22, 2010 5:50 am

Congratulations to Sun Valley’s own Graham Watanabe! Yesterday, he took second behind France’s Perre Vaultier during a World Cup snowboardcross race in Stoneham. This was an Olympic qualifying event, and Graham finished in a good enough spot to clinch the qualification.

He almost didn’t make it though. He fell during his first run, so he definitely felt some pressure going into the second one. Well, not only did he gather himself and produce an Olympic-qualifying run, he produced the fastest Olympic-qualifying run of the day.

“I don’t even really know how to summarize it,” Watanabe said. “It’s a confirmation of everything I have worked for. It’s not the end all be all, but making it to the Olympics is a difficult task, especially with a team like ours, and achieving that goal is a big step in achieving a bigger goal in my snowboarding, which is to be the best I can be. [The fall] made it interesting for today because it added more pressure for myself. I wondered if I could continue it or if I had used up all my gusto in qualifiers.”

Comment from U.S. Snowboarding Head Coach Peter Foley: “For Graham this is amazing. The amount of pressure that was on him was huge. He just charged all day, had great starts and killed it. It was a ton of pressure that he dealt with great, and that’s a good sign heading toward the Olympics.”

Graham was thrown into the Olympics unexpectedly in 2006 when a teammate was injured and he replaced him. He now feels like he truly belongs where he is. “I felt like I was Olympic caliber in 2006. I had raced all season against all those same people. But I also felt like I had teammates who were better suited for that position and it took injuries for me to get in there,” Watanabe said. “But this time I feel like I belong there. I put in several years of progress and consistent riding in the top group.”

Continuing on about yesterday’s race, “I’m not a big believer in destiny or fate, but this is something I set my sights on and made it a goal,” Watanabe said. “When I feel like I’m riding the way I’m riding, it was an absolute achievable goal.”