Second chance boosts Bright in halfpipe win Lysacek tops Plushenko for gold
By EDDIE PELLS
WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Torah Bright brought a timely flash of excellence to an otherwise messy night on the halfpipe. She walked away with — what else? — a shiny, Olympic gold medal.
Under pressure after falling on her first run last night, the Aussie strung five technically superior jumps together on her second attempt and landed them all for the perfect capper to a four-year ride full of injuries, experiments and, ultimately, victory.
"I was like, 'Oh well, can't change that,' " Bright said of her first run. "I got up to the top, and I tell myself the same things going into any run, any event. It's just to have fun."
She scored 45 points to defeat defending champion Hannah Teter, of Belmont, Vt., by 2.6. The 2002 champion, Kelly Clark, of Mount Snow, Vt., fell on her first run, hit the deck on an awkward landing on her second but still took bronze.
Bright, the 23-year-old originally from Cooma, Australia, won without trying the "double cork" — the double-flipping jump she'd been practicing all year, one that's increasingly popular on the men's side but hasn't yet been tried by a woman in competition.
But she wasn't looking to make history — only to win gold, and she was more than good enough to do that on a night when all the top contenders fell.
That included 2006 silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler, who fell once while trying her inverted 720 on the first run, then again on the second when the nose of her board caught the lip and she landed hard on the deck then crashed back into the halfpipe. Bleiler finished 11th, one spot behind former Kaua'i resident Elena Hight.
Clark fell on her first run, as did Bright — while she was trying a switch-backside 720, a two-spin jump during which she spends most of her air time with no view of the wall. It's an amazingly difficult trick that even most men won't try.
The fall left her with a score of 5.9, in last place, which forced her to rush back up the hill and go first in the second round. She dusted herself off, did the same progression of tricks, landed them all, then waited for nearly 30 minutes to see if someone could beat her.
Nobody did, and when Teter closed the night by losing speed toward the end of her trip, giving her no chance to soar high above the pipe, the deal was done.
Bright shared a long, sweet hug with her brother and coach, Ben, and Australia — a land not known so much for its snow sports — had its first gold of these Winter Games. A few minutes later, she received a congratulatory phone call from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
She called the brief chat "lovely."
"It means every girl in Australia is going to want to buy a snowboard," said Bright's teammate Holly Crawford.