By Sean Radich
Friday, 24 February 2006
Team Switzerland showed it’s dominance in the alpine snowboard disciplines with 3 medals in the last two days competition of Parallel Giant Slalom at Bardonecchia. The brother pair of Phillipp and Simon Schoch continued on from the winning form of their Snowboardcross team-mate, Tanja Freiden, by taking Gold and Silver yesterday, and this afternoon Switzerland took a treble of gold with Daniela Meuli battling for the win in women’s PGS.
With this third gold medal, and fourth snowboarding medal overall, Switzerland is muscling in on the all-conquering USA Team (with 3 gold and 6 medals overall) for bragging rights on the Bardonecchia arenas, but also moving closer to the US in the overall Olympic medal tally. And it was an extra special celebration for the Schoch family yesterday as not only did the two brothers show that they are the best PGS riders in the world, but the elder Schoch successfully defended his 2002 Salt Lake gold medal, the first snowboarder to defend a gold in any discipline so far.
Yesterday Australia’s Emanuel Oppliger rode strongly to qualify in 15th place out of 31 riders for the 16 man elimination PGS finals, but unfortunately he was drawn to come up against eventual gold-medallist, Phillip Schoch. The Australian starting in the blue gate, was blown away by Schoch in the first of the two 1/8 Final runs and for the next run, when swapping to the red gate, was unable to catch his opponent and finished 1.39 seconds behind Schoch for the two combined runs. Oppliger was justifiably happy with his performance and said, “I did a good race. I was competing against one of the strongest PGS snowboarders in the world, so I’m happy about my result”.
For the rest of the afternoon the Schoch brothers rode dominantly, and so it was little surprise that once the field was whittled down through four rounds of head-to-head competition they would have to face-off for gold, the first time in Olympic history that brothers have had to compete against each other for gold. And after the younger Simon (who finished 25th in Salt Lake) stumbled slightly early on in the first run, Phillipp never looked like losing his lead. The brothers were clearly so excited for each other’s success hugging each other over the finish line and they planned for the family celebrations to continue well into the night. In the ‘Small Final’ Austria’s Siegfried Grabner held off France’s Mathieu Bozzetto to take the bronze medal.
Today in the women’s event Australia’s Jo Shaw did not do as well as her team-mate, sliding out heavily in her first qualification run and again on her second run, to not qualify for the 16-woman finals and finish 29th overall. After the four rounds of women’s rounds were completed, it was Daniela Meuli who just managed to edge out Germany’s Amelie Kober to secure Switzerland’s third gold medal in snowboarding for this Olympics. And to add to America’s medal tally, Rosey Fletcher won the ‘Small Final’ against Austria’s Doris Guenther to take bronze.
With the flower ceremony taking place in front of the huge grandstands at the Melezet area of Bardonecchia (the official medal ceremony takes place in Medal Plaza in central Turin) the snowboarding events drew to a close for the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics. It will be remembered as Olympics where the USA dominated the Halfpipe in both mens and womens, as well as showed the team depth with three other medals in the racing disciplines. It will also be remembered for the successful and dramatic (with Lindsey Jacobellis’ unsuccessful mid-race celebration attempt) debut of Snowboardcross. And if you thought the snowboarding action at this Olympics was out of sight, just imagine how it will be in Whistler, Canada in four years! I can’t wait – I’ll be there for sure.
Report by Sean Radich in Bardonecchia, Italy.