How four U.S. snowboarders turned the Games on their head
This is an article from the Feb. 12, 2002 issue
Though hard-core boarding folk like to talk about the
individuality of snowboarding and how antiestablishment the
sport is, there was no wiping the grins off the faces of
halfpipe riders Ross Powers, Danny Kass and J.J. Thomas as they
huddled in a bear hug on the winner's podium after becoming the
first U.S. trio to sweep a Winter Olympics event since the 1956
men's figure skating team.
So far in these Olympics, at least, snowboarding is America's
sport. A day after U.S. rider Kelly Clark McTwist-ed her way to
victory in the women's halfpipe event, the "U-S-A" chant was
once again bouncing off the walls of Park City's Superpipe. Last
week U.S. head coach Peter Foley predicted that his riders would
do well even with the regimented scoring system of the
Federation Internationale de Ski, the organization appointed to
oversee the sport when it landed in the Olympics four years ago.
Though the heavily codified system hampers creativity, Foley
said last week that "we can at least go in knowing what the
judges require. And I think we've got it down pretty well."
Pretty well? Over the past two days U.S. riders put on a clinic
at the Park City Mountain Resort. First there was the
18-year-old Clark, who soared as if filled with helium when she
received a rare 9.2 (out of 10) amplitude score in the women's
final on Sunday. Then Powers, 23, the 1998 bronze medalist and
veteran of the men's group, followed up yesterday by exploding
15 feet over the lip of the pipe on the first of several
monstrous airs. Then came Kass, 19, who nonchalantly pulled off
a signature cab 1080 maneuver to take silver. Lastly, there was
20-year-old Thomas, who said he "just had fun" on the run that
clinched the bronze.
Founded 37 years ago by a Michigan skier named Sherman Poppen,
snowboarding is the country's fastest growing winter sport. Off
the heroics of the last two days, however, the sport may yet
catch its biggest air ever. "We don't have to be rebels right
now," said Powers. "We can go a long way with this."
The Icewoman Cometh
Figure skater Sasha Cohen wasn't the only U.S. Olympian who
passed a cell phone to President Bush during Friday's opening
ceremonies. Sitting behind the President and Cohen was Krissy
Wendell, the first-line center for the U.S. women's hockey team.
After TV cameras turned away from Cohen, Wendell passed her
phone to Bush, who chatted with Wendell's mother, Drenda, back
in Brooklyn Park, Minn. "I was second," says Wendell, clearly
not bothered at having been upstaged, "but this is my first
Wendell, 20, isn't likely to take a backseat to anyone else
here, poised as she is to lead the U.S. (which opens today
against Germany at 11 a.m. at the E Center) to its second
straight gold medal. The 5'6", 155-pound dervish led the
national team in goals (37) and assists (35) last season. Before
that, in two seasons at Park Center High in Brooklyn Park, she
scored 219 goals and had 96 assists. Though Wendell is known as
a scorer, U.S. coach Ben Smith says there's more to her game.
"She's got great vision and poise with the puck," he says. "We
get concerned that she doesn't shoot enough."
Canada, the world champion, is seeded first in the Olympic
tournament, even though the U.S. has beaten its archrival eight
times in a row coming into the Games. "Nobody's going to
remember those games," says Wendell, "if we don't win the gold."
Chances are, though, everybody's going to remember Wendell long
after these Games.
With yesterday's high-winds postponement, the women's Olympic
downhill has evolved into a complex, above-the-neck battle. Tune
in this morning; strongest mind wins.
First Picabo Street subtly taunted the Europeans, reminding them
in a webcast that she already has won on the Snowbasin
Wildflower course. Then she laid down the fastest run on the
first training day. Euros such as Hilde Gerg all but conceded.
"The Americans have skied so much on this course," Gerg said.
Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister and Renate Goetschl were
similarly glum. Were they sandbagging? Were the Americans
pushing their buttons? "We've got the home court advantage, and
we're using it," said Maine native Kirsten Clark.
On Sunday, Street was fast again, but five Europeans were
faster. And they all came out of their tucks at the finish, as
if to say, We could have gone even faster. Street was more than
a second behind Goetschl.
In Sunday night's position draw, the top 15 seeded skiers (based
on World Cup results) chose high start numbers. Dorfmeister took
No. 25, Goetschl No. 20 and Italy's Isolde Kostner No. 14.
Street, unseeded in the rankings at No. 16, did not get to
choose and was hit with No. 2. The Euros thought that the snow
would get faster as the day unfolded and that Street would be a
Then the winds came and with them a postponement until this
morning at 10. Another draw. The favorites again chose high;
Street this time got 26. Is this better than bib No. 2? Is it
worse? Another night to wait, for the brain to boil slowly. The
best have all played these games before, but one thing is clear:
Nobody is more experienced at navigating chaos, or creating it,
than Street. --Tim Layden
Q: Why is basketball not part of the Winter Olympics?
A: Though thought of as a winter sport, basketball has been a
part of the Summer Games lineup ever since it was introduced as
an Olympic event at the 1936 Games in Berlin. At the time,
international basketball was under the supervision of the
International Amateur Athletic Federation, the governing body of
track and field. With the IOC looking to reduce the number of
summer events, there has been talk of transplanting basketball
to the Winter Games. "That won't fly in our lifetime," counters
former executive director of USA Basketball Bill Wall, citing
the influence of television broadcasters. "No one would dare
interfere with the NBA or the NCAA tournament." --Albert Chen
Where Are They Now?
OLYMPIC HIGHLIGHTS: Gold medalist, slalom and giant slalom, 1952
The two golds she won as a 19-year-old in Oslo remain the
highest achievement by a U.S. woman skier at an Olympic Games,
but Lawrence has continued to make her mark even after hanging
up her racing bib. "I came out of my skiing years with a very
deeply held belief system," says Lawrence, "and a great passion
and commitment to the land." Born into a renowned Vermont skiing
family (her mother was the captain of the women's Eastern ski
team; her father built the Pico Peak ski resort), Lawrence
settled in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in the late 1950s to raise her
five children. In 1982 she was elected to the Mono County Board
of Supervisors, and during her 16 years on the board she battled
unchecked development in the mountainous region and testified
before Congress to help environmental groups achieve several
landmark successes, including passage of the Bodie Protection
Act of 1993, which saved the California mining town of Bodie
from development. Since her retirement in 1999 Lawrence, who
describes herself as "indigenous to mountains," has worked on
land-use issues with the Sierra Nevada Regional Initiative, a
nonprofit organization. "You don't need to say no to development
in mountain areas," says a still passionate Lawrence, now 69,
"but you do need to say how [development should proceed], and
we're not doing a good job of saying how." --Trisha Blackmar
for the record
Yesterday's winners, notable results and a look at the overall
the medal stand
LEADERS [Gold] [Silver] [Bronze] TOTAL
Germany 2 3 1 6
United States 2 3 1 6
Austria 1 1 4 6
Norway 2 2 0 4
Russia 1 1 1 3
Italy 2 0 0 2
Finland 1 1 0 2
The Netherlands 1 1 0 2
Switzerland 1 0 1 2
Canada 0 1 1 2
Spain 1 0 0 1
France 0 1 0 1
China 0 0 1 1
Czech Republic 0 0 1 1
Japan 0 0 1 1
Poland 0 0 1 1
Sweden 0 0 1 1
Korea 0 0 0 0
Kazakhstan 0 0 0 0
Belarus 0 0 0 0
Bulgaria 0 0 0 0
Women's 15-km Individual
[Gold] Andrea Henkel
[Silver] Liv Grete Skjelbreid Poiree
[Bronze] Magdalena Forsberg
Men's 20-km Individual
[Gold] Ole Einar Bjoerndalen
[Silver] Frank Luck
[Bronze] Victor Maigourov
Pairs Free Program
[Gold] Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze
[Silver] Jamie Sale and David Pelletier
[Bronze] Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao
[Gold] Armin Zoeggeler
[Silver] Georg Hackl
[Bronze] Markus Prock
[Gold] Ross Powers
[Silver] Danny Kass
[Bronze] Jarret Thomas
Yesterday's event was postponed due to high winds and
rescheduled for 10 a.m. today.
The U.S. men opened up the preliminary round of the curling
competition with a 10-5 upset of world champion Sweden.
Women's competition began with Canada defeating Kazakhstan 7-0.
Casey FitzRandolph of the U.S. leads entering today's 500 final
after an Olympic record 34:42 in yesterday's first race.
Defending gold medalist Hiroyasu Shimizu (34:61) sits in second
followed by Kip Carpenter (34.68) of the U.S.
--Joanne McLeod, coach of figure skater Emanuel Sandhu of
Canada, after Sandhu stumbled against a wall at the Delta Center