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Strong finish puts Powers in good Olympic position

TELLURIDE, Colo. - TELLURIDE, Colo. (AP) — Seven years after he won the gold medal in the Olympic halfpipe, Ross Powers has taken a key step toward qualifying for the Vancouver Games in snowboardcross.

The 30-year-old American finished third in a World Cup event Saturday, putting him squarely in the mix for the 2010 Olympic team. It was the second of five World Cup qualifying events for snowboardcross.

"I grew up doing a little of everything, racing gates, doing freestyle," Powers said. "In 2006, I was the alternate in the halfpipe, went over to Torino, watched these guys do snowboardcross, and I was fired up about it."

At least two snowboardcross riders will qualify for the American team based on results in the five World Cup qualifiers. Powers joins defending Olympic champion Seth Wescott and Graham Watanabe as the third American with a top 3 finish.

Powers, who led an American medals sweep on the halfpipe in 2002, finished behind Pierre Vaultier of France and Robert Fagan of Canada. Wescott finished sixth.

America's top woman was eighth-place finisher Faye Gulini. Defending Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis finished 11th and hasn't made a final in either of the first two World Cup qualifiers, both of which have both been won by Maelle Ricker of Canada.

Ricker clipped Jacobellis's board in the first heat race, and Jacobellis wiped out.

"Lindsey rode great, and I don't think she did anything wrong," U.S. Snowboarding coach Peter Foley said. "She had a great race, she smoked the top, she and Maelle just tangled it up. Sometimes you can stay on your feet and sometimes you can't, but she went down."

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