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    Thursday, January 29, 1998

    Snowstorm forces schedule change in Olympic qualifying

     MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) -- A snowstorm which dumped more than a foot of snow on Mammoth Mountain on Thursday forced officials to reschedule the final Olympic halfpipe qualifying event.
     The original schedule for the third and last of the $225,000 Bud Light U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix events, the lone Olympic selection events, listed halfpipe and giant slalom finals Saturday at Mammoth. The adjusted schedule calls for halfpipe Friday with GS on Saturday. the first Olympic Snowboard Team will be announced Saturday night.
     "They've done a great job getting the 'pipe in shape but this new schedule is better," U.S. coach Peter Foley said. "There was a lot of snow in the 'pipe this morning but it's in good shape now.
     "These last Bud Light contests mean the Olympics for these riders and they're feeling the pressure. You want good conditions for a fair contest."
     Pete DelGiudice, U.S. halfpipe coach and a Mammoth Lakes resident, agreed. "Now, the big question is what happens with any winds. No winds, no delays and we're in great shape.
     "This new plan, with only halfpipe, gives the organizers some slide time if there's a weather problem ... and, of course, that can happen in the mountains."
     Michelle Taggart of Salem, Ore., who qualified in halfpipe after winning last weekend at Mount Bachelor, Ore., trained Thursday and said visibility improved as the storm rolled out of the Eastern Sierras.
     Taggart's $10,000 first prize came in handy, she said. "I went home and paid bills before I came down here. Now, I'm just trying to be thinking ahead, learn a couple of new tricks, learn the rotation and all that, before the Olympics."
     She'll be trying to win Friday, she said, "but now I'm really more concerned about learning my tricks."
     Olympic team membership is based on a rider's two best results in the three-event Grand Prix. Three riders will be chosen in each event -- men's and women's GS and halfpipe -- and the Olympic coaches will recommend the last two places on the 14-rider team with a five-member panel approving the final team.