Pipe Predictions: Women’s Field Dominated By Veterans

The oldest is 34, the youngest is 18. The three medalists from the Nagano games are back, and Japan has the biggest number of competitors. This year’s Olympic women’s pipe field is an interesting mix of both veterans and relative newcomers, but one thing’s for sure¿come the day of the event, it’s every woman for herself in the quest for the Gold.

Right at the end of the women’s practice, Kelly Clark, who was arguably going biggest among the women, laid down at the bottom of the pipe and withered in pain, feeling the affects of a bruised tailbone. Would an injury hamper her attempt at the podium place?

Later at the athlete lunch, the tension was definitely mounting, as Canada’s Natasza Zurek sat quietly at the end of one table, focusing on what she would have to do tomorrow. Others were looking for distractions. Norway’s Stine Brun Kjeldaas turned on the TV next to her table and cheered as a fellow Norwegian won the women’s mogul competition.

Who will win the women’s halfpipe? It’s an open field, but looking at who’s in it might give some indications. Here’s a rundown of the second-ever women’s Olympic halfpipe competitors:

There are 23 women competing in tomorrow’s event. The oldest competitor is Germany’s Sabine Wehr-Hasler (34), while the youngest is U.S.’s Kelly Clark (18). Wehr-Hasler also competed in 1998, and ended up in 15th place. Of the 23 total starting tomorrow’s event, eleven actually also competed in Nagano, including Gold medalist Nicola Thost, Silver medalist Stine Brun Kjeldaas, and Bronze medalist Shannon Dunn (Downing). All are favorites for tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tune in to see what actually happens.

Japan has the most competitors entered¿four¿which is the most any country could qualify. In 1998, they only had two competitors when the event was held on their native soil. Yuri Yoshikawa returns from the 1998 team to try to win a gold again for the Japanese.

The U.S., Norway, and Finland all have three competitors. There’s been strife among the Americans that a certain competitor could have helped the team secure a fourth spot for the U.S., but whether it actually would have happened is up for debate.

Interestingly, Canada only has one woman competing this year, Zurek, compared to four years ago when it fielded a four-rider team. Tara Teigen, who was part of that team, will be doing TV announcing for NBC this time around.

While Germany and Sweden have two competitors each, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Great Britain all only have one competitor in. With names like Kirsi Rautava, Lisa Therese Wiik, and Yoko Miyake filling the field, the winner might be somebody totally unexpected.

(Each of the TransWorld staff bet ten dollars and put their top three picks in a jar this evening. Here’s my prediction¿Gold: Kelly Clark. Silver: Stine Brun Kjeldaas. Bronze: Shannon Dunn Downing.)

Tune in to transworldsnowboarding.com to see if I’m right and to get the whole story about who won the women’s Olympic halfpipe competition on Sunday afternoon.