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Hannah Teter wins silver, Kelly Clark bronze in women's halfpipe

The gold goes to Australia's Torah Bright, who makes up for crashing in first run with spectacular second run

February 19, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Torah Bright's Olympic Games preparation was not exactly ideal: two crashes, two concussions and a trip to the hospital in the span of a few days in January.

The snowboarder was off the hill and her main competitors were throwing down dazzling runs in the pipe at the high-profile X Games in Aspen, Colo.

What about those dreams of Olympic gold for the Aussie native?

Most certainly . . . not so bright.

"It wasn't the easiest month, I'll say that," Bright said. "I think I spent more time off snow than I did on. But this year I didn't want to peak at X Games. I wanted to be here and I wanted to ride my best here."

Done and done.

Flash forward to Thursday at Cypress Mountain. Bright, who had fallen on her first run, stood at the top of the halfpipe course on a chilly night and then seized the Olympic moment.

She pulled off a sensational second run to secure the gold medal, scoring 45.0 points of a possible 50, putting down a series of big tricks including a switch-back side 720.

Winning silver and bronze were two former Olympic champions from the United States. Hannah Teter, the winner four years ago, took the silver, and 2002 gold medalist Kelly Clark captured the bronze.

Teter had led after the first run, scoring 42.4 points, and put down a clean second run. But even she knew how high Bright had set the bar. "Didn't catch her tonight ... on fire," said Teter.

By virtue of her first-run tumble, Bright was the first rider down the halfpipe for the second, and it served to put big pressure on the rest of the field. Americans Elena Hight and Gretchen Bleiler, a silver medalist four years ago in Italy, both fell.

It was a crashed-marred night, and one rider (Queralt Castellet of Spain) was taken to the hospital after a training mishap between sessions. Hight fell on both of her runs, as did Bleiler, who had a scary-looking tumble when she crashed off the deck of the pipe on her second run but appeared to be OK.

Clark fell on her first run, running into problems early, struggling with her line and tumbled on her 1080 trick. Bright fell on a switch-back side 720 and Bleiler tumbled on her inverted 720.

Teter, as it turned out, was the one rare riders to pull off two clean runs in the final.

"I fell every practice run and hit my butt super-hard three times," she said. "And I was happy to get that out of the way before finals.

"Tried to forget about the mess ups and remember that it's just fun and games."

Said Clark: "I see so much more in this medal than I did in Salt Lake because I knew how hard I had to work to get here."

The sneakiest trick may have been pulled off by Bright's parents. They live in Australia, six hours away from Sydney, and arrived in the Vancouver area stealth-like, pulling a fast one on Torah. "I had no idea my parents were here," Bright said. "It wasn't until I finished the second run that my brother pointed them out. I just burst into tears."

Bright giggled about their great effort to hide from her. Teter and Clark started laughing too when they heard the story.

"I was over at the [family] house," she said. "They weren't there. But I found out they were hiding in the closet when I was there!"

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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