American women looking for an Olympic sweep in snowboarding at Vancouver Winter Games
If the results for the U.S. women snowboarders at this year’s Winter X Games are a prelude for the Vancouver Olympics, get ready to cue “The Star-Spangled Banner” early and often.
Americans Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter captured the top three medal spots in that order for the women’s SuperPipe finals, setting the stage for a possible American annihilation in the Olympic women’s Halfpipe competition on Feb. 18.
“I think it’s looking really good for an American sweep, guys and girls,” says Teter, who won gold in the Halfpipe competition during the 2006 Turin Games. “Americans are pretty next level with snowboarding. We have the best training facilities, the best coaches that push us to the next level. All the other countries are good, but I think the U.S. is going to dominate.”
The 23-year-old Teter became a household name four years ago after a dazzling performance in Turin, pulling “front-side Nines” (two and a half rotations in the air) and getting “corked out” during some of her aerial tricks above the 22-foot walls, contorting her body in different ways to add personal flair. After her medal victory, she cracked jokes on “Late Night with David Letterman” and had a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor named in her honor – “Hannah Teter’s Maple Blondie.” And she graces the pages of the 2010 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, garnering plenty of supporters in her growing fan base.
Clark is no stranger to snowboarding fans either after winning gold in the Halfpipe at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. The Mt. Snow (Vt.) native, known for her speed and amplitude in the Halfpipe, looks to rebound from a disappointing 2006 Olympics after finishing fourth. “I feel very privileged to be going to my third Olympic Games,” says Clark, 26. “I’ve had great success. In 2006, I missed the podium by one spot. I think I’ve taken a lot from those two (Olympic) experiences. I’m riding the best I’ve ever ridden right now. I’m more motivated than ever. Heading into Vancouver, I’m in probably in best place I could be.”
Clark and Teter both enter the Vancouver Games brimming with confidence, but there will be plenty of hurdles on the path to a possible American women’s snowboarding sweep – the competition (watch out for the Chinese snowboarders) and the judging. The latter subject can elicit pointed remarks by some of the top women snowboarders. One problem stems from the sport still being relatively new, and one that incorporates in Clark’s words, “a lot of room for creativity and individuality, components that make it very difficult to judge.” Snowboarders constantly develop new aerial tricks and riding styles, making it a challenge for judges to know what to look for or how to score a particular individual’s performance. When it comes to Olympic figure skating programs, for example, programs feature standard elements, like the salchow and double loop jumps.