From Bend to South Korea

These Bend athletes are competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (all times Pacific).

Ben Ferguson and Kent Callister in men’s halfpipe snowboarding:

• Qualifying starts at 8 p.m. Monday

• Finals start at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Laurenne Ross in ladies’ alpine skiing super-G and possibly downhill:

• Super-G starts at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16

• Downhill starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20 (U.S. coaches have yet to announce whether Ross will compete in downhill)

Tommy Ford in men’s alpine skiing giant slalom:

• Run 1 starts at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17; Run 2 starts at 8:30 p.m.

Four years ago in Sochi, Kent Callister was a wide-eyed 18-year-old who had no idea what to expect at his first Olympics.

He relaxed, put no pressure on himself, and wound up placing a surprising ninth among 39 contestants in the men’s halfpipe snowboarding event.

At the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, which get underway Friday, the Bend snowboarder plans to use the same mindset as he vies for another top-10 finish next week. Although he’s a U.S. citizen, Callister will compete for Australia because he has dual citizenship.

“I’m not really expecting anything,” the 22-year-old Callister said last week from Mammoth Mountain, California, before leaving for South Korea.

“I just want to go in, land a run, and have fun, that’s all. That’s what I did last time. Whenever I put that pressure on myself, it doesn’t end up well. I’ll just go in there, relax, and just have fun and snowboard. In Sochi I was just having so much fun snowboarding at the Olympics, and I think that’s why I ended up in the place I did.”

Callister is a longtime Bend resident who grew up honing his craft at Mt. Bachelor ski area. Because his father is Australian, he has dual citizenship, and he decided before the Sochi Games to compete for Australia.

Riding for Australia offered an easier path to qualifying for the Olympics, as the U.S. men’s halfpipe snowboarding team is typically stacked with some of the world’s best talent.

While he knew he had a strong chance to qualify for the Australian Olympic team once again, Callister did not officially make the team until he posted a 19th-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass, Colorado, last month. A week later, he made the finals and finished sixth at a Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain.

“I didn’t know until after the Snowmass Grand Prix, so it was a bit of a relief,” Callister said. “All my hard work has paid off. I’ll go into Korea and have fun, and won’t put any pressure on myself. I feel like I’ve done well in the Grand Prixs. I think I can always do better. Sometimes you just have to be happy with how you competed. I’m content with how I rode, and looking forward to Korea.”

In 2013, Callister was invited to join both the U.S. Snowboarding rookie halfpipe team and the Australian halfpipe team. He chose the Aussies, and received a scholarship from the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia. The institute is government-funded, and Callister said it provided him more financial support than if he had joined the U.S. team.

Callister was born in San Diego, where his mother is from, and moved with his parents and older sister to Gold Coast, Australia, when he was 5. The family moved back to the United States, this time to Bend, when he was 9.

Callister began snowboarding with the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation and rose through the amateur ranks.

“I’d go ride Bachelor from open to close with all my buddies,” he recalled. “I’d ride nonstop. I’ll be taking a piece of Bend with me to the Olympics for sure.”

Callister’s father, Brett Callister, envisioned his son as a professional on another kind of board — a skateboard — when Kent was younger. But the younger Callister’s potential in halfpipe snowboarding — a sport in which riders are judged on the difficulty, execution and amplitude of the aerial tricks they perform as they soar in and out of a U-shaped course — became evident fairly quickly.

“I never thought he would have the opportunity to make one Olympics, let alone two,” Brett Callister said this week before leaving for South Korea to watch his son compete. “I’m just glad he’s getting back there for another experience. He would be only 26 on his third time around in 2022, so hopefully he can make it three.”

Brett Callister, who recently moved back to San Diego from Bend, is also excited that his son is competing for his father’s home country.

“Obviously, I’m biased being Australian,” Brett Callister said. “As his dad and an Australian citizen, I’m pretty stoked to be celebrating the green and gold (Australia’s national colors). I just want him to go there and soak in the entire experience of being an Olympic athlete and representing his country. These are things in life that so few people get to experience.”

One of Kent Callister’s teammates on the Aussie team is Scotty James, who is considered among the favorites to win a medal in Pyeongchang. Shaun White of the U.S., and another Bend rider, Olympic rookie Ben Ferguson, will also be among the top competition.

Callister said he is excited about having two snowboarders from Bend in the same event at the Olympics.

“Ben’s awesome,” Callister said. “I’ve been riding with him since we were 14. We’ve been training and competing for a while. I’m really happy for him.”

Callister finished eighth at the Olympic test event for halfpipe in Pyeongchang a year ago, and Ferguson was fourth.

Callister said he has been working with his coach, Ben Weisner of Australia, at Mammoth Mountain for much of the season.

“I think we’re trying to focus on really not taking it too seriously,” Callister said. “(Weisner) helps me out when I get frustrated trying to do a trick. He’ll calm me down and walk me through it.”

Callister said the backside double McTwist 1260 — which includes 3½ rotations and was perfected by White — is a trick he might add to his run. But mostly, he just wants to enjoy the experience of another Olympics, an event that includes many of the same riders as other contests throughout the season, but one that has a completely different feel.

“There’s just so many people there, and the opening ceremonies and everything … it’s very cool,” said Callister, adding that he hoped to be at Friday’s opening ceremonies. “It’s important to just take that all in, have fun, and remember the moment.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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