”Today’s race was like my transplant,” American Chris Klug said following his bronze medal finish in the Parallel Giant Slalom Friday February 15. “There were times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but I stayed with it and made it. I would have liked to race for the gold, of course, but I’ll take the Bronze.”
Putting to rest any idea that the media alone was responsible for the steady barrage of liver stories, Chris Klug neatly tucked his miracle transplant story into his day at Park City and into Olympic history. He also helped wrap up the biggest week in American snowboarding history. On Sunday Kelly Clark won the first US Gold. On Monday Ross Powers, Danny Kass, and JJ Thomas were the first Winter Olympic Sweep for the US Team since 1956, and Klug’s bronze medal broke the US record for winter Olympic medals.
Regardless of what snowboard magazines say there is something elegantly pure about Alpine racing. Watching course workers prep the slope before the race spectators couldn’t help but feel that something of historic proportions was about to happen.
In Alpine racing nothing is left of to the judges. It doesn’t matter how cool a rider is or who his or her friends are. It is racers against the clock and each other in a purely objective battle. Parallel Giant Slalom is also a spectator sport. Unlike Giant Slalom it’s not about who can run the course the fastest. It’s all about who can stay ahead of the person on the course next to them eight runs in a row. As gold medalist Phillipe Schoch said during a post race press conference, “Winning the parallel GS takes nerves. I had nerves and my competition did not.”
The day began sunny and warm. The slope, which earlier in the week was home to the halfpipe had been tilled and kneaded and plowed and packed and rolled and folded non-stop since Monday afternoon. And some racers feared that the quality of snow would be uneven. As the men’s first round got underway it was obvious that somethingwas wrong. During the first three heats of the men, not one racer made it down the course. The winner was decided by who made it the furthest down the course before crashing.
The Olympics competition is never typical and Friday was no different. The top three racers from qualifying lost in the first round to the bottom three qualifiers. Top qualifier Gilles Jaquet went down in each run of his first heat against 16th place Nicolas Huet. The number two qualifier Alexander Maier, brother of Alpine skiing great Herman “the Herminator” Maier lost his first heat to the 15th place qualifier Phillipe Schoch. And third place qualifier Daniel Biveson of Switzerland lost to Walter Feichter of Italy.
Richard Richardsson running in seventh was the first racer to complete the entire course without falling. It wasn’t until Chris Klug’s first heat, the sixth of the day, that both racers made it to the finish without crashing. Chris finished .31 seconds a head of Jerome Sylvestre of Canada and was on his way to a medal.
In the semi finales Richardsson edged Huet and Schoch took advantage of two edge out’s by Klug to move into the Gold medal round.
On the women’s side there was not nearly as much drama. Isabelle Blanc who fell one gate from the finish in the Olympic GS in Nagano had waited four years for this day. “The final with Karin was something that I could not have dreamed of. I wanted to win two races this year,” she said. “Alp d Huez and the Olympics. I won Alp d Huez with Karine (Ruby) in the final and I did it again here today. Now I need some time to realize all this. I feel so much love around me.”
America’s only hope in the women’s event, Lisa Kosglow, went down in the second round against Karine Ruby. While trying to make up a .63 second disadvantange Lisa crashed just before rolling onto the bottom of the course. “I dipped my shoulder,” she said. “That’s it. The shoulder is the snowboarder’s nemesis.
But Kosglow was happy about the day regardless of the out co. “If every race was like this I’d race for the rest of my life,” she said.
| Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom Final, Competition Results.|