Olympics: Fun still centre stage for funky snowboarders

Sunday, February 16th, 2014. Filed under: Sports & Recreation
(L-R) Silver Medallist, Australia's Torah Bright; Gold Medallist, US Kaitlyn Farrington; and Bronze Medallist, US Kelly Clark celebrate the Women's Snowboard Halfpipe Flower Ceremony at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 12, 2014. ©AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO

(L-R) Silver Medallist, Australia’s Torah Bright; Gold Medallist, US Kaitlyn Farrington; and Bronze Medallist, US Kelly Clark celebrate the Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe Flower Ceremony at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 12, 2014.
©AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO

(ROSA KHUTOR-AFP) – There may be Olympic titles, gold medals and perhaps even mega sponsorship deals at stake in Sochi but for snowboarders it remains all about the fun.

Snowboarding is the rebellious younger cousin among winter sports where athletes not only dress differently, in baggy clothes, and often wear their hair long and bedraggled but even have their own language, meaning they’re “stoked” when they win after performing a “sick” run.

And it seems when it comes to competition, they’re not all that bothered about who wins or loses, as long as they get to have a “blast”.

Australia’s Torah Bright missed out on retaining her women’s halfpipe title by the narrowest possible margin on Wednesday, yet she seemed as delighted as the woman who dethroned her, American Kaitlyn Farrington.

“Every day I get to snowboard is a wonderful day and to be able to — four years later — be loving snowboarding like I was four years ago, and be back on the podium with an incredible group of girls is a wonderful feeling,” said Bright.

For American bronze medallist Kelly Clark, the winner in Salt Lake City 12 years ago, what makes snowboarding stand apart is the ability of athletes to be competitors and friends at the same time.

“This is real friendship. It goes beyond performing and competing against each other and I think that’s what makes this sport unique, because not only can we be competitive but we can be genuine friends as well. It’s an amazing sport,” she said.

It’s not just the women getting all emotional and gushy about snowboarding — the men were at it too following Saturday’s slopestyle final.

US winner Sage Kotsenburg, 20, said his fellow medallists, Norway’s Staale Sandbech and Mark McMorris of Canada, were among his best friends.

“All of us were having a blast in there and you could see us high-fiving at the bottom,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re bummed out when other people come down and land a ride, we’re equally as stoked for the next person to land a ride.”

Even controversies over the scoring have not served to dampen the feel-good factor.

When asked whether she had any qualms about the scoring having come so close to a second successive gold, Bright seemed unflustered.

“You know these judged sports, it’s just so hard. To be honest I think (Wednesday) was one of hardest events I’ve been in for a long time,” she said.

“It’s about the sport of snowboarding and putting on a great show, and we did that.

“Win, lose or draw, it doesn’t matter the colour of the medal, we’re united as shredding babes.”

Not everyone was quite so gracious. Hannah Teter, the champion in Turin in 2006, missed out on a medal by just 0.25 points — the narrowest possible gap — and she could not hide her disappointment.

“I’m not super stoked on the judging. I thought I should have a higher score. What are you going to do about FIS (International Ski Federation) judging? Nobody ever agrees with it.”

“I’m a little bummed to say the least,” she added.

But even then, Teter was not overly critical and did graciously congratulate the medallists.

“I’m stoked for my friends,” she added. “We all had a really good time.”

bc/jw

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