By Stacey Burke Snowboarding has come a long way since it first appeared on the slopes. Gone are the days of needing to be certified to get on one of the selected few mountains that allowed us. Many people feel that it was better in the past when everyone on the hill was your friend and your local shop put on the majority of events. I believe that there are also a lot of people who think that the corporate mainstream of the snowboarding world today presents us with more opportunities. Personally, I appreciate the evolution of snowboarding and I am also glad that I was able to experience the early days of the sport.
Today we are not only recognized as athletes but also respected as athletes. I am proud that my love for the sport has lead me to being invited to the first ever Winter Goodwill Games to represent Canada. The goodwill games seemed to have a little different perspective on snowboarders than the Olympics did just two years ago. Here in Lake Placid I think the positive attitude change is in part due to the fantastic job of marketing Tricia Byrnes did (both with the television campaign and her speech at the opening ceremonies) as well as the exciting fresh aspect we bring to these winter sports.
Lake Placid being home of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics was already well equipped to host such an event. Athletes from all over the globe participating in winter events such as figure skating, luge and downhill skiing were in Lake Placid from the 16th -20th of February for the games.
We arrived at the airport on the 14th and as soon as we stepped off the plane members of the organizing committee greeted us. After a three-hour van ride from Albany, NY, we arrived at the Hilton where the rest of the athletes were staying.
On February 15th and 16th we trained for the halfpipe. The pipe was small and not too steep but it was long and narrow. The weather was off and on for the day and we were all hoping the snow would hold off until after the event. In training the standouts were Kelly Clark who was just coming off a win at the Jr. Worlds busting huge airs above everyone else and looking as confident as a sixteen-year-old could possibly be. Kelly is predicted by many to be the future of women’s snowboarding and has earned herself a spot on the US National team. Kelly seemed to set the tempo for the rest of us and everyone pushing the envelope harder and harder with each progressive run. A few girls were working on McTwists and Kim Stacey was also upping the amplitude anti. Lori Glazier was riding strong and would be a contender if she stomped her sevens.
The night of the sixteenth was the opening ceremonies hosted by multi-millionaire Ted Turner. The Canadian team ended up sitting behind the American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. As usual our team seemed to be having a little more fun than anyone else is and Lori Glazier decided to stand up and dance to the music of Bruce Hornsby. Lori getting a little excited almost kicked the less than impressed figure skater in the head. On that note we decided it was time to go back to the hotel and prepare for the next day of competition.
The Canadian team was excited to finally have the support of a massage therapist, a coach and a wax technician for the event. Our coach for the event was Whistler legend and pro rider Dennis Bannock and his technical advice was a great help in a halfpipe that was far from easy to get use to. Coaching and massages are a few of the benefits generated by the dramatic growth of the sport that I definitely appreciate. It is nice to be able to concentrate on riding and to know what you are doing right and wrong. The benefits of constant coaching and technical support were obvious as I watched the American team perform.
The day of the event the weather answered our prayers and was sunny and cold for the day of the women’s halfpipe. The pipe was better, a little bigger with more vert and way faster. The first round scores had Tricia with a hugee advantage at a 41.80 , she rode solid all day landing huge 540′s and rocking solid standard maneuvers. But this event was a best of two format and it was anyone’s game in the second run. Kelly Clark tried to answer with 5 and 6 foot airs all the way down the pipe. A huge frontside 540 and 360 pushed her to within .30 of Trish but Trish’s smoothness made the difference today. Kim Dunn of Calgary, Canada also off a podium finish at the Jr. World’s rode strong and landed a perfect backside 540 to finish in third. Gretchen Bleiler of the USA placed third throwing a frontside five right off the top. She was throwing Mctwists in practice and we were all wondering if she would bust one for the finals, but she chose a safe route and it placed her well. Kim “showtime” Stacey was plagued with injuries from the past weeks training and travelling and even know her father was watching with great concern, she toughed it out and finished in a respectable sixth.
The weather was deteriorating for the men’s event and both Lori and I were looking for a way to get home after being informed of the flight cancellations due to a crazy 16 inch storm that was covering a good chunk of the east coast. Ross was riding well in practice as usual and he seemed happy to have been able to make it home for a night to sleep in his own bed before the event began. In the practice it looked like the USA was going to be hard to beat for the top medal positions but Guillaume Morriset of Canada was also looking like a contender with a plethora of technical tricks including switch backside fives and switch Michealchucks. I would not count out the other Canadians either, Daniel Migneault of the 418 crew who always is going large with good style and dope tricks has qualified well in events this year only to have trouble in the finals could easily pull off a medal position in this event Canadian champion Justin Lamoureux is usually consistent in tough conditions which could be a great benefit considering the storm warning coming in.
The men’s finals had the USA in gold, silver and bronze finishes. As predicted Ross “the boss” Power’s continued his halfpipe dominance. He stole the show with a McTwist, frontside 900, air to fakie, switch McTwist combo. Tommy Czeschin took second with his usual technical run and huge amplitude and Rob Kingwill also of the US national team in third. Justin Lamoureux of Canada came in fifth.
The Boardercross and GS are still to follow and the Canadian boardercross champ, Scott Gaffney looks like a good hope to win. He claims the course will be fast and fun even though the training was put off for another day due to weather. The organizers of the first winter Goodwill Games did a wonderful job and I was very excited to have been a part of the event. After day one the United States was leading the medal count with Canada and Italy in second, but I think Canada will catch up after Sunday’s boardercross our strongest event.