Americans take another two on halfpipe
BARDONECCHIA, Italy – Not to be outdone by the boys, Hannah Teter won gold and Gretchen Bleiler won silver – another set of Olympic medals for the United States on the halfpipe.And just like the men, the women came painfully close to a sweep.The top two women in a distinctly American sport, Teter and Bleiler dominated every part of the snowboarding event Monday from qualifying through finals. They gave the United States four of the possible six medals over two days of competition in sunny Bardonecchia.”I just kind of felt the same standing up there,” Teter said of the moment before her final run. “It’s like, ‘Here we go again, another run on the pipe – but at the Olympics.’ I just felt super positive.”
A day earlier, it was Shaun White and Danny Kass won gold and silver respectively, with Mason Aguirre in fourth.On Monday, Kelly Clark got bumped out of the third spot when Norway’s Kjersti Buaas had one of the runs of her life. Clark, the 2002 gold medalist, had a great run going in an attempt to overcome her, but fell in her attempt to land a 2 1/2-spin jump at the end.”I felt like this was the time to pull out all the stops,” Clark said. “I really went for it.”She finished with 41.1 points to 42 for the Norwegian.
Again, though, it was hard to complain – at least not for the American side. Even Clark seemed to be soaking this one in, standing at the bottom and congratulating her teammates who finished up after her.During the awards ceremony, Teter wrapped the American flag around her waist and jumped up and down on the podium. Both she and Bleiler wore stars-and-stripes bandannas, the same as White wore the day before.Teter’s road to victory was also a lot like White’s.Riding with the cords from her iPod dangling about, she scored a 44.6 on her first run to take the lead, an advantage that none of the other 11 riders could match. It made her second trip down the icy pipe a victory lap, just like White’s, except she outdid the first, scoring a 46.4 on the strength of a frontside 540 followed by a frontside 900.
Like most of the best athletes in this so-called “alternative lifestyle” sport that is quickly going mainstream, Teter has taken a quirky path through life and athletics.The 19-year-old lists one of her favorite hobbies as making syrup out of the sap from trees near her home in Vermont. Her entire family is involved in snowboarding, from two brothers who also are on the U.S. team, to another who is the manager of what they call Team Teter.Bleiler, meanwhile, is no stranger to photo shoots and could have a career in modeling once the snowboarding is over. She missed the Olympic team on the strength of a tiebreaker in 2002, a motivator that landed her next to her teammate four years later.Their wins combined with those of the boys’ is likely to push this once-fringe sport even further into the spotlight. A good sign of how far it’s come is that both top finishers skipped the X Games late last month to be better prepared for the Olympics. No snowboarder would have thought to do that 10 years ago.
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