Olympic gold medalists Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT) and Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow) added silver and bronze to their respective trophy cases, while Australia’s Torah Bright brought the gold medal Down Under with a final run 45.0 in Thursday night’s women’s halfpipe.
Though they fell just short of snowboarding’s highest honor, the dynamic U.S. riders now know intimately what it means to land on the podium in multiple Olympics.
“Medals are a really funny thing, because when you see them, they’re prestigious and you can stand in awe of an Olympic medal, but I think to the person who receives them, they mean so much more,” Clark said. “All the hard work, and all the days, weeks, months and years and people who were believing in me and having the courage to get up and pursue the Olympics after finishing out of the medals in Torino … I see so much more in this medal than I did in Salt Lake because I know how hard I had to work to get here.”
For the second consecutive night in the pipe, the U.S. qualified its full roster for the finals, with Teter, Clark and 2006 silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO) advancing straight to finals and Elena Hight (South Lake Tahoe, CA) marching through the semis.
“This is just one of the biggest events in the world, so it’s an honor to come and just be able to ride here and to be able to represent USA,” Teter said.
“I fell every practice run and hit my butt super hard three times, and I was happy to get that out of the way before finals,” she said. “It definitely takes a lot of positive thought to yourself to really get back in the zone after falling. It’s easy to lose focus.”
The second woman to win successive Olympic medals in snowboard, Teter gained the top spot after the first round of finals with a 42.4, landing a clean run as many of the other riders struggled to stay upright on the pipe. Bright, for her part, fell and received the round’s lowest score, a 5.9. Bleiler and Hight also fell their first times down.
Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion, came out amped up and singing to the music but fell on the final hit of her difficult first run. She delivered a better performance in run No. 2, ending with a huge 900 for a 42.2, just .2 behind Teter – whose solid second run was not counted.
“It’s never what you’re looking to do to fall first run, a lot of us found ourselves in that position tonight,” Clark said. “But it’s a position I personally have been in many times before through years of competition. Stick to the plan, regardless of what your circumstances are.”
Kicking off the second round, Bright (who lives in Salt Lake City) threw down a high-risk session that included a Switch Backside 7, setting a benchmark that nobody else could challenge.
Bleiler fell on an inverted 720 – one of the sport’s most difficult tricks – in the first run, and then missed her third hit on the second to drop out of medal contention. Hight also went down in both medal rounds.
The two medals bring the U.S. mark to 14 of 24 total podium spots since the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics in 1998. Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA) won gold and Scott Lago (Seabrook, NH) got the bronze in the men’s competition Wednesday night.
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Cypress Mountain, BC – Feb. 18
Gold – Torah Bright, Australia, 45.0
Silver – Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT, 42.4
Bronze – Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, VT, 42.2
4. Jiayu Liu, China, 39.3
5. Sophie Rodriguez, France, 34.4
10. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 24.6
11. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 14.7