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Best Not in Show

Terje Haakonsen, considered the world's top snowboarder, shocked his sport when he spurned the 1998 Winter Games

January 30, 2006|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Looking back at what might have been, Haakonsen said he has no regrets.

"It's still FIS in charge," he said, "and snowboarding isn't about gold medals."

That certainly appears true in the case of an athlete who has been doing most of his riding lately on the big mountains of the back country, inspiring there as he once did in the halfpipe and on the race courses.

So in a way the question remains: Will the Turin Games produce the world's best snowboarders?

That depends on one's viewpoint -- and perhaps one's age. Wrote Kurt Hoy in Transworld snowboarding: "Terje tops my list because his style stems from supreme board control and technical ability, but it's also fluid, spontaneous and powerful.

"A lot of snowboarders with good technical riding skills never evolve to have style, and a lot of riders with style are limited by their lack of ability. Terje's well-roundedness is the key to his style -- I don't think any other rider has ever had the same combination of skills, to the same degree that Terje has.

"I've never really tried to copy anyone's style. I've always just wanted to refine my own, but if I could magically ride like someone else, I'd want to ride like Terje."

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