The Olympic halfpipe during yesterday’s practice. Photo Jake McBride
With four Australians and five Kiwi snowboarders attending the halfpipe event there is one snowboarder that stands way above all the others as the most obvious chance for an Olympic Medal and that is Australia’s Torah Bright.
A fifth place at the Torino Olympics in 2006, could be partially blamed on the huge weight of national expectations that was placed on her or the sublexed shoulder dislocation she experienced in her first run. Either way, a snowboarding athlete such as Bright, although she is used to lots of general media attention, rarely has the immense pressure as she’ll experience again at the Games in Vancouver. The weight of this attention in Italy, certainly effected Bright’s performance and it is still questionable whether it will affect her again.
But four years down the tack, the experience of Olympic pressure and two new World Titles, Bright potentially shows she’s got the strength of character to rise above. Her skill and talent is not in question however uncertainty about her podium possibility, in the form of the athletes’ archenemy – injury, has arisen in recent weeks. Another shoulder injury kept her away from competing half of last year and even though her comeback at the Saas Fee World Cup in November saw her win Gold, she missed the opportunity to really cement her favourite status by missing the X Games in Aspen last week.
The X-Games has long been seen as the event to win, and last year Bright did win. The expectation was she would unleash her newest trick the “double-cork”. This is a double flipping, spinning trick made famous this year by none other than Shaun White and never yet attempted by a female snowboarder in competition. The world waited with baited breath for Bright to take girls riding to a new level, however in a dramatic turn of events she concussed herself performing a simple manoeuvre and retired. American Gretchen Bleiler went on to win the event with a run that will be more than hard for Bright to beat.
Apparently now she is recovered and ready for the Olympics, there is no doubt Bright is the best, but she has to overcome the injuries that have held her back from important contest experience this season and successfully block out the huge expectations and pressure of a national media that all but expect to see our golden girl on the podium. On the day the questions isn’t whether she is the best, but whether she can overcome those things in question?
Torah practicing the elusive Double cork in NZ last season
Holly Crawford – The Bright Shadow Advantage
Holly Crawford represents Australia’s dark horse, or secret weapon. She could easily make the podium at the 2010 Olympics and everyone will ask, “where did she come from?” And the answer is, she has been here the whole time, quietly toiling away under the huge shadow of Ms Bright.
Living under Bright’s shadow, must be frustrating sometimes, but for this Olympics, it could be the key to Crawford’s success. In the last three months Crawford has repeatedly landed on the podium at some of the biggest events in the USA, including a 3rd at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix series. Her huge amplitude and aggressive riding style turned more than a few heads that day.
Crawford may not be as technical as her teammate, but don’t be surprised if you find her on the back page of every paper in Australia standing on the podium in Vancouver as the first Australian snowboarder to ever have an Olympic medal hanging around her neck.
Who to Watch for in Vancouver.
Men: Shaun White, Scotty Lago, Ben Mates, Scotty James, Iouri Podlatchikov
Women: Torah Bright, Holly Crawford, Kelly Clarke, Gretchen Blieler
Words – Russell Holt
Olympic Halfpipe Schedule Vancouver time. (East Coast Australia time)
Men – February 17.
Qualifying: 1:05pm (8:05am + 1 day)
Finals: 5:15pm (12:15pm + 1 day)
Women – February 18.
Qualifying: 12:30pm (7:30am + 1 day)
Finals: 4:00pm (11:00pm + 1 day)