Bardonecchia, Italy—Three-time Olympian Rosey Fletcher (Girdwood, AK) earned her first career medal by winning the bronze in Thursday’s parallelgiant slalom. Michelle Gorgone (Sudbury, MA) finished 22nd as Swiss riderDaniela Meuli won the gold.

Meuli downed Germany’s Amelie Kober in the big final for the gold. It was Switzerland’s third snowboard medal in two days as Philipp Schoch and Simon Schoch went gold-silver in Wednesday’s PGS. It was also the third straight gold for the Swiss as Tanja Frieden won the women’s snowboardcross on Feb. 17.

Fletcher shut down Austrian Doris Guenther in the small final. In the first of two head-to-head runs, Guenther had problems around a gate on the top half of the red course, giving Fletcher the maximum 1.50 second advantage in the second run. Fletcher, as she had done most of the day, laid down a perfect second run on the red course to take the bronze back to Girdwood and Alyeska.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Jerry Garcia, but what a long, strange trip it’s been,” said Fletcher when asked about her medal and her illustrious career. “There have been events, like the U.S. Open, I’ve won twice there and that was like one of the milestones of my career. It was one of those events that I remember winning and being like ‘this is amazing’. So this bronze medal just tops off a number of events during my career that have made a bigimpact.”

All day long, Fletcher was getting strong pulls out of the start and was carving fluidly around every gate – until her second semifinal run on the red course. In the first run of semis, Fletcher, on the blue course, was super smooth and beat Meuli by .24 seconds. Switching over to the red course for run two, Fletcher got the chatters as she rounded a gate on her toe-side. She laid her hand down, but her body was too low to recover and she slid across the course, allowing Meuli to go on to the big final and the top podium spot.

It was the only race Fletcher lost all day.Fletcher ripped through the qualification and elimination runs to enter the 1/8 finals in second place behind Russian Ekaterina Tudigescheva, who finished fifth in the finals.

In the 1/8 finals, Fletcher squared off against Italy’s Marion Posch. The first run saw Fletcher win by a .47 second margin and she didn’t let up, downing Posch in the second run by almost a second.

In the quarters, Fletcher and Switzerland’s Ursula Bruhin had two close runs,but Fletcher won by .12 and .15.

“I feel like I’ve had some ups and downs, but every athlete does,” said Fletcher. “I think that this year really came together physically and mentally. I came into my own. I was really focusing not so much on winning and the destination, but it was all about the journey and having fun.”

The only American to compete in all three Olympics with snowboarding, Fletcher was 26th in PGS in ’02 and 25th in giant slalom in ’98. She was the first U.S. rider ever named to an Olympic squad.

“From day one, I knew this was going to be one hell of an Olympics,” said Fletcher. “I really wanted to just really enjoy the journey. It was something that I never really allowed myself to do in Nagano or Salt Lake, it was all about the destination. For me, today was just about having fun. I love to snowboard, and that’s what I really focused on.”

Gorgone, a first-time Olympian, did not advance out of the qualifying round as only the top-16 riders from the field made it. In her first qualifying run, Gorgone recorded a time of 43.59 on the blue course, which ranked her 28th. She really stepped it up on the red course during her elimination round run, posting a time of 40.84. It ranked her ninth in that run, but it wasn’t enough to advance.

Fletcher’s bronze was the seventh medal won by American riders at the ’06 Olympics. U.S. snowboarders procured at least one medal in five of six events and multiple medals in two.

Since snowboarding debuted at the ’98 Nagano Games, the U.S. has collected 14 total medals, including five golds, four silvers and five bronzes.

The seven medals in ’06 was an all-time high for the U.S., which won five (two gold, one silver, two bronze) in ’02 and two (both bronze) in ’98.

The women’s PGS was the final snowboard event of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

XX OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Bardonecchia, ITA – Feb. 23, 2006
Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom
1. Daniela Meuli, Switzerland
2. Amelie Kober, Germany
3. Rosey Fletcher, Girdwood, Alaska
4. Doris Guenther, Austria
5. Ekaterina Tudigescheva, Russia

22. Michelle Gorgone, Sudbury, Mass. www.torino2006.org