Hannah Teter Takes Silver, Kelly Clark Bronze at the Vancouver Games.
We'd like to start this with an apology. While we fully intended to do a minute-by-minute report on the women's pipe riding, we had technical difficulties that prevented this from happening. And when we say 'technical difficulties', we mean that being awake for 24 hours the day before and drinking for 12 of those hours left us bent and broken and desperately needing sleep. Once again, apologies.
And it looks like we missed a banger, too, as Australian Torah Bright overcame a fall in her first final run to post a score of 45.0 points out of 50 in her second to take the gold medal and live up to our assertion that she's the most technical women's pipe rider in the world right now. There was never any question of Torah's ability to put down tricks that many guys, let alone girls, struggle with - like backside 3 to switch back 7 combos - but we were unsure if she'd be able to send it like Americans Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler. Well, Torah answered that last night.
We did manage to catch the qualifiers before our brains shut down and while there were a few upsets (Kjersti Buaas - bronze at the last Games failed to advance), most of the big hitters made it through as expected, with Torah qualifying first with a banger that bagged her 45.8 points. We also got a look at the much-hyped Chinese team for the first time, and while they looked solid, we didn't reckon they'd got enough to challenge the podium unless they were holding back something special for the finals. The biggest surprise was Spain's Queralt Castellet - we have to hold our hands up and admit we'd never heard of her - who had an absolute barn-stormer of a first run and qualified in third. Her first his backside 5 would have seriously embarrassed some of the guys.
Here's how the qualis broke down...
As with the guys, the top 6 women booked a ticket straight to the Finals while the girls in the next 12 spots had to duke it out in the Semis for a shot at the big time.
In the Semis, China's Liu Jiayu looked to be heading into the finals in first with a solid run that gave her 41.1 points. Aussie Holly Crawford, who won the BEO a couple years back, had other ideas and stomped a smooth and stylish run with big straight airs and back to back (front to cab) 7s and a front 5 that she managed to get the grab on at the second attempt and wang out nicely. She's got great style, that Holly, and was rewarded with 41.7 points.
So, the finals rolled round and as in the men's pipe final many riders seemed to be struggling with the sandbox that the flat-bottom was becoming. Falls or sketched runs were common. American Gretchen Bleiler who, after her sick run at the X-Games, we reckoned was a good bet for the podium at least came a cropper on both her runs and ended up last, while girls like Holly Crawford and Zhifeng Sun couldn't repeat the performance levels of their earlier runs.
Jiayu Liu posted an early high score thanks to her beefy method to front 5, back 5, front 7 to cab 7 combo, only to be pegged back when Hannah Teter, gold medallist at the last Olympics, stomped her run and showed she wasn't gonna let go of the Letterman spot easily. We were expecting big things as Kelly Clark dropped but her first run was sketched, and then Torah Bright took her go and fell too, on her switch back 7. After years of training, heaps of qualifying contest and the like, waiting for their second runs must have been intense.
From what we've seen, the only girls who could touch Teter were Torah and Clark, so when Torah dropped in (as she was in dead last after her first run fall, she had to go first in the second round) and managed to stick her run to bag 45 points everyone erupted but she then had the unenviable position of waiting for everyone else to come down. Kelly launched into her trademarked monster frontside hit, but the landings on her spins weren't perfect and while she posted 42.2 points it was only enough for bronze and Liu couldn't improve on her first run's score so all eyes were on Teter... who sketched out on one of her tricks and couldn't improve on her first score. Game, set and match to Torah Bright.
Mad props, Torah! Backside 3, switch backside 7 McTwist, backside 5, air to fakie and cab 7 is one hell of a run, and she did it all with decent height too. BANG-A-TRON.