Local slopestyler fails to make U.S. Olympic team

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Tom Wallisch lives in Park City, Utah, and, while building a reputation as one of the top slopestyle skiers in the world in the past few years, he has skied more runs there than any other area.

So he was hopeful this weekend entering the Park City Grand Prix -- which included the final two events of the qualifying process for the U.S. Olympic freeskiing team -- that his high comfort level with the slopes would serve him well.

Wallisch, 26, a native of Scott Township and a Chartiers Valley High graduate, needed to finish in the top three in the finals Friday and Saturday in order to automatically qualify for the Sochi Winter Games. But Wallisch took ninth Friday and fourth Saturday, a disappointing result for a skier who won the 2012 X Games and is the reigning world champion.

Wallisch did not find the podium (a top-three finish) in any of the five qualifying events. Nick Goepper, Bobby Brown and Gus Kenworthy earned automatic qualifying spots for Sochi by finishing on the podium twice.

Wallisch hopes that there will be more spots for male slopestyle skiers as part of the 26-member U.S. freeskiing team, which also includes events in moguls, aerials, halfpipe and ski cross. Because Wallisch is seen as a legitimate medal contender, he would be a candidate for any discretionary spots that are handed out.

Wallisch would be in the mix for those spots, along with McRae Williams, Alex Schlopy and Joss Christenson. Schlopy and Christenson took first place in the Park City Grand Prix events Friday and Saturday, respectively.

In slopestyle skiing, skiers are judged on tricks and how they use numerous rails and jumps to their advantage on a run. Wallisch, who honed his craft on rails in his backyard in Pittsburgh, was discovered as a talent through putting videos of his skiing on YouTube.

■ What: XXII Winter Olympiad, Sochi, Russia.

■ When: Feb. 6-23.

■ TV: NBC networks.

■ Key starts: Opening ceremonies, Feb. 7. ... Men's hockey, Feb. 12. ... Men's figure skating, Feb. 13. ... Women's figure skating, Feb. 19.

J. Brady McCollough: bmccollough@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BradyMcCollough.

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