The United States broke ground this weekend, striking gold in the Salt Lake City Olympics. Snowboarder Kelly Clark won the first gold medal in the women’s halfpipe. Her medal winning performance was quickly followed by a medal sweep in the men’s halfpipe snowboarding event.
The U.S. invention of snowboarding is still in its infancy in the Olympics. Tricks evolve and change every day making the half-pipe event hard to judge. Judging consists of four categories: standard maneuvers, amplitude, rotation and overall impression. A perfect score would be 50 points with an athlete receiving 10 points from all five judges, two judges for impression and one for other areas.
Clark, an 18 year-old form Mt. Snow Vt., received a near perfect score of 47.9 on her final run of the day. Had she not wowed the judges with her highly technical maneuvers, France’s Dorianne Vidal would have won the gold medal with her high score of 43.
The win was extra sweet for Clark because she bruised her tailbone in a practice run the day before the finals. Clark’s injury happened as she practiced a McTwist, a 540-degree flipping rotation. Ironically, it was the final trick she threw in her gold medal-winning run, and she landed perfectly.
In the men’s halfpipe Ross Powers threw a pair of McTwists in his gold medal run. Powers, 23 of Stratton, Vt., stood atop the podium with Americans on both sides. Danny Kass, 19, won the silver while J.J. Thomas, 20, received the bronze.
The U.S. sweep of the men’s half-pipe was the first sweep of a Winter Olympics event in 46 years. The men were all pleased with their performances. Powers’ score was far ahead of the pack while Kass and Thomas barely edged out the competition.
The United States was looking for a large medal count after the Sept. 11th tragedy to boost national morale. The United States started the world of snowboarding and in the 2002 Olympics overtook the rest of the world with its style and resilience.