It’s a funny thing the Olympics. It kinda goes against what most of us feel is the true essence of snowboarding, which the TTR represents way better, but then because it only comes around once every four years, it’s hard not to get insanely excited about it. It’s also nice to know the whole world is watching the sport you love with all your might, which in turn impacts on the riders and makes them push way harder than they would normally, as shown by the amount of guys learning double corks in the last two months and in particular with Shaun White’s unveiling of the Tomahawk in the men’s final on Wednesday night.
Now we knew Roxy rider Torah Bright had been practicing double corks, see for yourself here, we knew no girl had ever landed one and we knew from Stine Brun Kjeldaas, the Roxy Creative Director, who was also commentating on the women’s half pipe for the BBC, that Torah was planning to lay one down if she got a solid score in her first run in the final. That sadly wasn’t to be as she sat down on the first run doing a highly technical Switch Backside 720 where you land blind, but it didn’t take anything away from the greatness of what happened next. She had the highest score in the qualifying round, which meant she went last in the first round of the final. But when she sketched out she got the lowest score so had to go first for her second and final run. This meant she had to dust herself down, pick herself up mentally and go out there right away and put in a Gold medal winning run, which she did. Boo yeah!
So it didn’t have the double cork we were hoping for, maybe we’ll see that at the first ever Euro X Games next month, but technically it was so far above anything any other woman on the planet is doing right now, especially as she nailed the Switch Backside 720, that it deserves massive respect. More so than ever when you consider the mental pressure she was under, the girl is nails. She scored a whopping 45 out of 50 points and was visibly stoked, especially when she noticed her parents in the crowd, who’d secretly flown over from Oz, against her instructions (!). Although she was also as humble as ever while she waited to see if the other girls could better her score.
The Gold medallist from the last Olympics Hannah Teter got closest taking silver with a clean enough run, but it lacked the spark, amplitude and technical level of Bright’s. Kelly Clark also got near and certainly had the amplitude that the judges had been rewarding all night, but her run wasn’t as clean and solid as usual, so she had to settle for bronze.
There were a few other surprises along the way, with recent X Games winner Gretchen Bleiler falling, having nailed her signature Crippler 720 earlier in the run, and placing 11th. The pressure of bring home a medal also proved too much for the Chinese riders Jiayu Liu and Zhifeng Sun, who looked really nervous throughout, though Jiayu Liu had a strong last run to place 4th.
Sophie Rodriguez from France, who finished 5th, impressed us a lot, especially as she was the only rider to attempt a 1080, even though she didn’t quite stick the landing. Queralt Castellet from Spain also went massiiiiiive in qualification but then crashed in practice and had to miss the final unfortunately. Get well soon Queralt. She’s definitely one to watch for the future though, as is Sarka Pancochova whose smooth, composed style and fun-loving vibe make her a total pleasure to watch. We also love how she goes for hard moves, even though she’s more of a slopestyle rider, and refuses to compromise and play it safe. As does Kjersti Buaas who is so stylish and creative, she so deserved a place in the semi even though she sketched out some landings, but instead it went to a more boring run consisting of straight airs but height, which the judges were favouring heavily last night.
So massive congrats to Torah, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more talented girl and we’re fully stoked for our former cover star.
A big shout out must also go Lesley McKenna, Cooler contributor, three times Olympian and UK snowboard star, who in spite of having a great season, especially at the BEO, and riding well in training, just couldn’t stick her landings in the contest. She wasn’t even going to do the Olympics as she spends all her time coaching young Roxy groms but having performed way below her abilities at the last games in Turin, she wanted to exorcise her past Olympics demons, especially as she got such a hard time in the UK press. It wasn’t to be but she’ll always be a legend in our eyes.