Photos by Nick Hamilton
Tonight got off to a bumpy start. Three of the riders who were predicted to win were in the bottom five after the first round of finals--Torah was in dead last, and only four riders had a score over 30. That was not how anyone wanted this night to go--not the girls or the audience. There wasn’t any clear reason for all the crashing in the first round other than nerves. Defending gold medalist Hannah Teter and China’s Jiayu Liu were the exception. Hannah was in the lead after the first round--she looked smooth and comfortable linking her run together irie-style down the pipe. She looked equally nonchalant at the bottom of the run, and come to think of it, on the podium later that night.
Torah was in the unenviable position of being first to drop in the second round of finals--the opposite of Shaun the night before. Torah was a favorite to win tonight and the stands were filled with Aussies waving flags and shouting. Torah had a rough go of it in the 2006 Olympics with many of the opinion that she got short change by the judges who didn’t recognized the level of technical trickery in her run. But tonight was different. The look of relief and stoke on her face after she stomped her Cab 7 on the last hit was one of those “Olympic moments.” The crowd went completely ballistic shouting, “Oi, Oi Oi!” She summed up the night saying, “It has been a long journey, but a great one.” Torah is the first Australian snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal.
Tonight’s bronze medalist Kelly Clark also went down in her first final run, but came back for the second getting huge amplitude and holding her grabs all the way around--she did land just a little short on a few spins, which might have been the 0.2 point difference between her and Hannah--either that, or Hannah adding one more straight air at the end of her run. It was so close. Coming into these Olympics, after a somewhat disappointing fourth place finish in Torino, Kelly had her heart set on gold, but at the end of the night, she seemed really happy to have a bronze medal to go along with her 2002 gold medal.
There were some disappointments tonight starting with Gretchen Bleiler who was favored by many to win, but sadly she was never able to put her winning run down. She got caught up on her Crippler seven on her first run, stuck it on her second, but then painfully decked out on a Cab seven on the next hit. She was smiling at the bottom of the pipe, but you know she had hoped for more. Also, Spain’s Queralt Castellet qualified in third becoming a dark horse favorite for many in the crowd, but then she fell while practicing before the finals started and wasn’t even able to compete in finals. Ouch.
This 2010 Olympic pipe final got off to a disappointing start, but righted itself and goes down in the books as a great contest with a great finish.
Click HERE for more Olympic Coverage