By Sarah Kwak
February 18, 2010

WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The night before the biggest day of his life, Scotty Lago tweeted out to his thousands of tweeps that he was going to bed and saying his prayers. Because that's what you do when you're headed down a massive halfpipe on the world's biggest stage, with not only your dreams, but the dreams of two of your best friends, riding on that board with you.

You pray that the countless hours you trained just to make it to the Olympics will serve you in your most important hour. You forget about how you've been known to choke when it mattered most. You forget that you only started landing that cab double cork 1080 two weeks ago, and that you just started linking it into a full run yesterday. You forget that you're here in Vancouver, in part, because your friends couldn't be, and you pray that it all goes the way you believe it can.

Lago knew that his run could contend for a medal, but never in the leadup to this night did it quite feel like a tangible, achievable goal. "Maybe because it's just like, Olympic medal? Come on. You can't really do that," he said after earning the bronze in the men's halfpipe Wednesday night. "But I just kind of lived in the moment and blocked everything out, that I was at the Olympics, and just kind of took it one hit at a time."

After he nailed the landing on the hardest part of his routine, that newly honed cab double cork 1080, he knew he was putting together one of his personal best runs. He was almost there, but right at the end, on his final hit -- what he called "a backside 9 kind of a double cork" -- he had time to say one last prayer.

"I said, 'Lord, please be with me,'" he said with a chuckle. "Because I knew I landed one of my harder runs that I ever have. And you know, it was my last hit, and I've been known to sometimes blow it on my last hit. So, I said a prayer right when I was going up the wall."

The halfpipe gods certainly answered, and his run earned a score of 42.8, vaulting him to first place. Only fellow American Shaun White would top his score on the first run, and though Finnish snowboarder Piiroinen Peetu nailed his second run and edged Lago out of silver position, the 22-year-old New Hampshire native's score held on for third.

This bronze medal just means a little more than third place, knowing that Lago was representing more than just the red, white and blue. He dedicated his run to Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis, two of his best friends and U.S. snowboarding teammates who had fallen to catastrophic injuries earlier in the season. Pearce, who was a medal favorite and one of the only riders to defeat White in competition, suffered severe brain trauma after slamming his head onto the lip of a halfpipe last December while attempting a double cork in Utah. He was just recently upgraded to serious condition after being in a coma for weeks. Three weeks after Pearce's devastating injury, Davis was involved in an ATV accident, injuring his back and ending his Olympic aspirations.

"I really wish they were here with me," Lago said. "I did it all for those guys and for the crew, and I did it for America."

So what does a snowboarder do after all of his prayers have been answered? He thanks the Lord and celebrates. "You know, I've never partied with my family before," Lago said thoughtfully. "My dad said he wanted to party. So, um, I'm definitely going to have to take that opportunity and party with him.... No holding back tonight."

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