By Sean Radich
Monday, 13 February 2006
Another golden day of sunshine and clear blue skies, and another gold and silver combo for the USA in the Halfpipe, this time to Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler. Norway’s Kjersti Buaas was today’s Scandinavian fly-in-the-ointment, stopping a yankee clean sweep of the medals (yesterday it was Finland’s Markku Koski) by taking bronze and holding out American Kelly Clark to fourth place. Australia’s golden hope, Torah Bright finished fifth overall after a couple of shaky starts where she stumbled in both her first qualification and finals runs.
Teter, Bleiler and Clark were quickly through to the twelve-girl final after solid early morning runs put them in the top six for the first round. Torah on the other hand sketched out slightly and wasn’t able to string together her "A" run, however it was still enough for her to receive the tenth highest score in the first round. This left her in the position of having to wait until almost the end of the second round before she had her chance to string together a run that would qualify her into the remaining top six. Up in the stands, amongst a large contingent of Aussies flying the flag and sporting green and gold ‘Torah’ stickers, the whole Bright clan (minus coach and brother Ben, who was beside the pipe) waited nervously and cheered loudly. And Torah did not disappoint, throwing down a super technical and clean run which gave her the second highest score overall for the day. Things were looking promising in the Australian camp, as Torah still had one killer trick to throw into the mix…but so did all the Americans.
In the final Teter, Bleiler, Clark and Buaas threw down solid combos of tricks, all with inverts, big, lofty rotations and clean style, giving them early leads in the placings. Torah was second last to drop into the halfpipe and was looking good with an enormous backside 360 indy for her first hit, but she went bigger than she expected, landed hard and crashed out heavily on her shoulder. All the American girls managed to throw in a frontside 900 into their runs, as well as other stylishly grabbed rotations, posting top five scores, and as Torah had faltered, due to the reverse-score format she was second to drop in the last run of the finals. Torah knew that she had to execute a killer combo to be able to guarantee a medal, but the shoulder injury from her previous run was playing on her mind and affecting her physical ability to ride.
Torah went for it with her very technical run that included a backside 360 indy, followed by a switch backside 540, a cab 720 and finished with some nice straight airs and a tail-grab-air-to-fakie. This great run propelled her into fourth place in the standings, with most of the field still to come, and so at that point she knew that her Olympic medal dreams would have to wait at least another four years. To really push for a medal spot Torah would have had to pull off a flawless McTwist for her second last trick of the run, but with her shoulder injury was unable to do so.
2002 gold-medallist, Clark was locked into third place…or so she thought until Buaas stepped up and really went for it with super amplitude and solid landings, including an inverted frontside 720 (crippler), which pushed her into second spot. Clark was clearly disappointed to be relegated outside the medals, but with one chunk of gold already weighing down her mantle piece she can’t have too much to complain about. Bleiler was the second last to drop-in and she performed her run, which included a crippler 540 and frontside 900, with even more style and amplitude than before and grabbed second spot from Buaas. This left little ol’ Hannah Teter standing at the top of the pipe waiting for her run and knowing that she had already won the gold medal. She adjusted her iPod music choice, pumped her fists in the air, saluted the crowd and dropped in to perform the sweetest halfpipe run of her life before being bear hugged by her successful teammates and fellow medallists. In the marshalling area.
Australia’s Holly Crawford did not make the final twelve, but performed bravely after crashing and injuring her hip badly three days ago. Crawford really went for it in her first qualification run, trying to pull a massive crippler, but landed heavily on the wall of the pipe and so she should be proud that she managed to do her second qualification run with such style and finish eighteenth overall.
Report by Sean Radich in Bardonecchia, Italy.