Selection Critera Closer
Six Months Until Opening Cermonies
Tuesday, September 23, 1997

Less than a half year from opening ceremonies, the US Olympic Committee is expected this week to finally release the selection criteria for the first ever US Olympic Snowboard team. Shrouded in conflict, the criteria have been the basis of negotiation, agreement, signing, reneging and finally a lawsuit.

David Ingemie, president of Snowsports Industries America, Inc. (SIA), said today that another agreement with the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) has been reached and rumored to have already been approved by the USOC, though not officially. Ingemie would not give specifics as to the new criteria or how they differ from those agreed upon last March, but did say, if accepted "we will be happy."

"We have come to terms on qualifications and it's in front of the Olympic committee," Ingemie said. The selection criteria were hashed out earlier this year in the "18 Points of Agreement," a sort of constitution of snowboarding in which the SIA and USSA agreed to use only a three stop US Grand Prix to determine which riders would qualify for the first ever snowboard dream team.

The revised selection criteria are now in front of the USOC and Ingemie expressed surprise he had not yet heard from the USOC. USSA Vice President Tom Kelly said Tuesday the USSA would not comment on the criteria until after a decision is handed down.

The criteria are the brunt of a lawsuit filed by Ingemie and the rest of a "snowboard task force" (including the Professional Snowboard Association (PSA), Burton, Sims, K2, Morrow, Rossignol, Sims, and Hot & Hammer) July 25. The suit charges that the USSA (formerly US Ski) reneged on the "18 Points of Agreement," part of which determined that a three-event US Grand Prix would be the only tour necessary to qualify for the Olympic team. This would insure spots on the Olympic team would be open to all riders, regardless of affiliation or current "ranking."

Nearly four months after the agreement was signed, the USSA said it would further require athletes to compete in FIS World Cup events in order to gain the FIS points needed to qualify. This decision to add FIS World Cup events to the selection process, though not the only contention, led to the suit charging "breach of contract."

In a letter dated June 15, USSA President Bill Marolt wrote to Ingemie, "as a result of decisions made by the FIS... we feel it's important to modify the Olympic Team selection criteria we have been discussing...The decision to use both Grand Prix and FIS World Cup events was made to insure that the U.S. qualifies for as many quota spots as possible." The suit was filed ten days later.

The whole issue of FIS points is a sore spot. FIS is neither the only nor necessarily the most popular snowboard federation. The International Snowboard Federation (ISF) membership roster boasts many top riders and holds its own events, but when it came time for the IOC to delegate an organizing body, it chose the older, more ski oriented FIS (which is the overseer of the USSA). Aside from the points issue, most FIS World Cup events are held in Europe and have the potential to eliminate those riders without big sponsorships who can't afford the travel. (The Olympics used to be for amateurs in order to insure it be open to top athletes, regardless of financial backing.)

At least as far as the selection of the team, the Grand Prix seemed the best solution and went off without a hitch last year as both ISF and FIS riders were able to shed their memberships and compete against each other for the first time in over three years.

The USSA has filed a motion to dismiss the suit, Ingemie said, while the plaintiffs have asked for an amendment to the suit; to remove the points pertaining to qualification. The suit has been postponed a number of times, but as of Tuesday, the motions were set to be heard Friday.

Watch for updates as news becomes available this week.
[Click here for a detailed look at the ISF/FIS battle.]

— Sarah Love, Mountain Zone Staff

[News Index] [Mountain Zone Home]