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Snowboard technician Curtis Bacca is the wax whisper at Olympics

Posted by Dan Egan February 17, 2014 07:31 AM
Curtis Bacca has been the magic sauce behind gold medals, World Cup wins and X Games champions for two decades as the US Ski and Snowboard technician for big names like, Kyle Rasmussen, Shawn Palmer, and two time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott.

Bacca is one of the few American-born "wax techs" to have such honors.

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Hailing from Sun Valley, Idaho, where he runs an elite ski and snowboard shop that specializes in high-end race snowboards, he has the reputation of something of a mystic.

"I have won the big races because my boards are fast, and they are fast because Bacca works on them. I don't ask him why, I just know that they are," Wescott said.

Bacca himself can't say for sure what the exact formula is for a quick ski or snowboard, but knows it's a mix between science and technology,

"It's intuitive, just by walking around I can tell by the feel of the snow and the temp in the air what will win on a certain day. When my athletes don't win, I get mad and do more research. I'm testing all the time," Bacca said.

He prides himself on being a "note taker" and knows that after 20 years of World Cup and Olympics racing, his experience is as valuable as the new technology.

"I can remember what wax, what weather, and what conditions won in France in 1992," Bacca said. "And that is the value in being around this for a long time. Certain situations come up and you know what to do with them."

He works on the equipment of Lindsey Jacobellis, who won a silver medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics, has 26 World Cup wins, nine X Games medals (seven gold), and has been dominating the circuit for almost seven straight seasons.

Becca causally waxes, scrapes and prepares test boards for each day.

"We techs share a bit of information, but not too much. It's an individual sport and I want my athletes to win, and win big," Bacca said.

Coach Bill Enos leads US snowboarders to new heights at Olympics

Posted by Dan Egan February 13, 2014 07:33 AM

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Bill Enos of New Hampshire coached a pair of snowboarders to Olympic gold in Sochi, including Sage Kotsenburg. (Getty Images)


Bill Enos believes our accomplishments are the sum total of all the people we have met, places we have gone, things we have seen, and the experiences we share.

For Enos, there is no greater example of this than being the coach of the US snowboard slopestyle team at the Olympics, which won two gold medals in the sport's debut at the 2014 Winter Games.

Enos fits seamlessly into the snowboarding world. His persona fits perfectly into the free spirited snowboard culture because he and it are one and the same. He can flip between conversations about the latest video game to the philosophy of peak performance as easily as shifting from toe side edge to heel side edge on a snowboard. His passion for the sport connects with teenagers as easily as it does with the “higher-ups” at the US Snowboard Association.

“US Snowboarding lets me be creative, the way I let my riders be creative, and we all work well together," said Enos, who is from Campton, N.H., and attended the Waterville Valley Academy.

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I live in the same town as Bill, and have known him since he was a professional snowboarder in the early 90s. Seeing him at the bank or the post office brightens my day and always helps me to see the world as a silly, random, and wonderful place.

“He is the pied piper of snowboarding," said Tom Barbeau, the Alpine program director of the Waterville Valley Ski Academy in New Hampshire. “In the early days of snowboard racing, he and a few others would run gates with our skiers. Bill would get up going fast, crash, and do it all over again and again. He was tenacious. Then when he became a coach, I saw how he masked that intensity behind his personality to motivate his athletes.

"To be a great coach, you have to never forget what it is like to be a kid. Billy has never lost that ability and through that he connects, educates and motivates his riders.”

Sage Kotsenburg is known for his style and progression, and has been a part of the snowboarding scene, but never really on top of the field. He unveiled his signature trick, the “Holy Crail,” to win gold at the Olympics, his first victory since he was a young teenager. His parents started to wonder if he would ever be recognized for his participation in the sport.

“I told his parents there is only one event where Sage needs to be recognized this year, and that is in Russia at the Olympics. His time has come, and it was the perfect time. That is how life is,” Enos said.

Enos had no qualms about Kotsenburg attempting a trick for the first time in a competition in the finals of the Olympics.

“It was the perfect time for him to do it. I wasn’t worried, I knew the winner would come out of the semifinals, not the top riders that made the finals into the first round. I told my entire team that the extra rounds were a good thing and to remain positive. And Sage was just getting better and better all day. His runs were fluid and he was so relaxed, it didn’t surprise me he would try something new.”

The day prior to the Olympic debut of the slopestyle event, Enos and Kostenburg hung out together all day.

“We were chilling and we both decided to take a 15 minute nap. Sage set his alarm, I didn’t. He woke me up exactly 15 minutes later and we just sort of walked around some more. We went shopping and bought some chocolate, hit the game room, but the basketball game was broken so we were bummed out and played the motorcycles race game for a while, had some dinner and then we only had two movies, Fight Club and Little Miss Sunshine. We choose Fight Club and went to bed," he said.

Jamie Anderson, who won gold in the Olympic women’s slopestyle, said she couldn’t sleep the night before her big event.

“I did some yoga and meditated," Anderson said. “I knew I would never get any sleep if I didn’t. It worked and I woke up feeling great.”

Anderson is famous for her smile and relaxed positive outlook on life. She has has four X Games Gold Medals, and also won on the Dew tour, so she is no newcomer to pressure.

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“She is a totally different athlete than Sage,” Enos said. "I give her space on top of the course. She is a master at stretching, breathing, and just goes to a different place right before she pushes off.”

Slopestyle kicked off the day after the opening ceremony. The competitors watched the big party from up in the mountains. There were some rumbles about the course not being safe and some riders were injured in training. Snowboarding icon Shaun White pulled out of the competition to focus on his main event, the halfpipe.

“We just stayed positive through all of that drama. It had no effect on us. The jumps needed some tweaking. At all major events the riders have to adjust to the jumps and rails,” Enos said.

The landings were a bit steeper than normal and the jumps were huge at the Olympics. That required the riders to adjust their takeoffs and landings a bit. Anderson was struggling with her take offs and spins.

“I just told her what I saw and made a few suggestions. She did the rest,” Enos said.

“It almost doesn’t seem real that both athletes won. At the end of the day you go, hey, not a bad weekend! Blessed I guess. I’m looking forward to developing new riders, I mean how do you top the Olympics?”

He may not be quite sure on what to do next, but one thing is for sure: whatever Bill Enos does, it will be fun, calm, silly, and profound.

I for one can’t wait to where he soars next.

Snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg stikes gold in slopestyle with his Holy Crail

Posted by Dan Egan February 8, 2014 06:57 AM

American Sage Kostenburg's victory in the Olympic debut of slopestyle was a long time coming – he hasn’t won a contest in close to seven years, and the last time was a small regional event when he was a teenager.

“I never thought I would make it to the finals” Kotsenburg said. “I was just super relaxed and couldn’t believe I was in the finals.”

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Kostenburg is coached by Bill Enos of Waterville Valley, NH.

“I turned to Bill just before my run and told him I was going to throw a Japan 1620, and Bill said, 'Send it', so I did," Kostenburg said.

It just happened to be the first time he had performed the trick, called the Holy Crail, in competition. His run thrilled snowboarding enthusiasts because of the overall fluid nature and total expression of his style. It was the first time all year that a major snowboarding event was won with out throwing some sort of triple maneuver

Kotsenburg's gold is a victory for snowboarding style and free spirit, as many believe that even the X Games were becoming a bit too cookie-cutter.

“Style won today and that could change the direction of the sport," said Alysaa Roenigk, a senior writer for ESPN who focuses on the X Games.

The American boarder, who had to compete in the morning's semifinal in order to qualify for the final, showed no sign of fatigue as he threw down two strong runs in the final round. He scored the winning 93.50 score in his first run of the final.

Staale Sandbech from Norway took the silver and X Games champion Mark McMorris of Canada the bronze. All three medalists are 20 years old.

Sandbech, of Norway, praised Kotsenburg for unique grabs on his snowboard during his two final runs as well as his four-and-a-half rotation spin off one of the jumps.

"Snowboarding has no kind of limits - you can do bigger tricks and you can do more spins and more flips. You can do different grabs you can do more grabs," Sandbech said. "Sage obviously did some super tech-creative grabs and a 1620 (rotation move) - he had such a sick rail run.”

McMorris, who broke a rib two weeks ago at the X Games in Aspen, USA, had two clutch runs on Saturday. The first helped him get through the semifinal round, the second bought him the bronze medal.

Snowboarding made an Olympic statement today to the world and to itself: "We are at Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and we have soul."

With Shaun White, it's me first

Posted by Dan Egan February 6, 2014 12:51 AM
Snowboarder Shaun White likes to win, and not just in the halfpipe.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is one of the highest-paid athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He has clout. His sponsors are many and they are big. He has leverage. White is an international brand involved with many enterprises, from chewing gum to video games. He has star power.

So there was much debate over White's withdrawal from the first Olympics slopestyle event on Wednesday, a decision that was criticized by some of his peers and had many wondering about his motives.

But it's not surprising. A look at some of the moments throughout White's career show how driven he is to be successful while also illustrating he's not necessarily best buds with the rest of the snowboarding set. They also help explain why he would make the call he did on Wednesday.

White is not your run-of-the-mill Olympian who is hoping for a gold medal. He grants interviews to the likes of Larry King and Maxim. He has an agent, a stylist, and a manager, so when it came to his announcement that he was pulling out of the first Olympic slopestyle event, he revealed the news in the friendly environment on the NBC Today’s show with Matt Lauer.

He cited concern over the course.

White achieved worldwide mega-star status through skill in and out of the halfpipe. White is not the first athlete to use the Olympics to launch a successful brand and career, but he might be the best at it. He has transcended the snowboarding world and lives the life of a star.

He has only had minor scrapes in public, a drunk and disorderly and vandalism incident where he trashed a hotel room in Nashville, Tenn. But hey, he is a snowboarder with a lawyer, so the penalty was minor and he apologized. If he wins in Sochi in the halfpipe, he has a shot of becoming one the most successful Olympians of his generation, both athletically and financially.

White is a driven competitor. In the buildup to the 2010 Winter Games, he had his own private halfpipe built in a very out-of-the-way location in Silverton, Colo., and he and only he was allowed to train there.

The recent HBO Documentary "The Crash Reel" is the story of snowboarder Kevin Pierce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while training for the 20010 Olympics and was White’s number one competitor going into those Olympic Games. Pierce tells a tale about rooming with White, and after Pierce beat White in a competition, White had all of Pierce's belonging set outside on the sidewalk.

The film also highlights the differences between White and the rest of his competitors. They see themselves as snowboarders, he see himself as a lone wolf and a brand.

That difference was evident Wednesday at the Olympic Media Center during a press conference held by the US ski and snowboard team with the US halfpipe squad. Olympian Danny Davis who tends to focus more on the soul of snowboarding and was a training partner with Pierce for the Vancouver Olympics, bragged about how he hasn’t trained yet here in Sochi because, “he has been having some sweet powder runs.”

In comparison, White said, “as you get older, you take things more seriously, so yes, I am taking this more seriously now than when I younger.”

White takes it so seriously in fact that his stage is NBC, not the US snowboard team. Specific questions about the safety of the slopestyle course were stifled by the press manager of the snowboard team during the conference. Nick Alexakos sternly requested that the press corps “please keep the questions focused on halfpipe.”

During the exchange, White revealed his true focus.

"I’ve trained the same for both competitions, definitely the halfpipe carries more weight because its a defending situation. I feel there is more pressure," he said.

In a later question concerning the time conflict between competing in both events, White was asked how was he going to manage training for the halfpipe when the first day of training was the day the slopestyle ended. White said he might have to skip the training and try and make it up.

Hours later he announced via NBC he was pulling out of the slopestyle.

White isn’t the first Olympian to calculate his performance and manage the number of events to participate in at the Olympics. It happens in both the Summer and Olympic Games. He is also not the first Olympic athlete to bring a bit of drama before the media.

On Wednesday, he was asked at the press conference about his career and he started the answer with “My whole life has been setbacks and overcoming them. I missed out on the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake when I was 15, and that made me stronger as an athlete and I came back and won the gold in 2006.”

At 27 he knows time is limited and his best shot at history to win three Olympic gold medals in one event is now. Halfpipe is his bread and butter, this is where he launched his fame from the stage of the X Games and this is where he will potentially make his final stand for his Olympic career. His strategy has worked thus far, why stop now..

When asked about his new hairstyle Wednesday, and what happened to the long red hair that earned him the nickname "The Flying Tomato," White said, “I basically did it because people said I couldn’t.”

White pulling out of the slopestyle is just one more example of that attitude that has placed him on top of the Olympics stage.

Seth Wescott turns sights toward 2018

Posted by Dan Egan January 31, 2014 01:21 PM
Seth Wescott loves to snowboard. The two-time Olympic gold medalist from Maine has dedicated his life to the endless winter. His passion for the sport is captured every season by the Warren Miller film crew, usually in places like Japan and Alaska.

Last season, on a dream trip for Warren's new movie, "Ticket to Ride," Wescott crashed on a steep face and blew out his knee when he tumbled down the slope. That is the day his comeback began for 2018 Winter Olympics.

"I knew coming into this fall I was strong, but not in the same shape I would normally be in for the Olympics," said Wescott, who failed to qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "Making it to Sochi was a long shot, but 2018, I'll be ready."

Wescott's accomplishments speak for themselves – 2 Olympic gold medals, 9 X-Games medals, 4 World Championship medals, and 3 national championships. And like most athletes, he has had his share of injuries, including a 2012 shoulder injury that sidelined him for that season and the 2013 knee injury that has now kept him out of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

For now he has set his sights on the 2014/15 World Cup season and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. His comeback plan is to snowboard deep snow around the globe, surf when possible, golf and stay healthy.

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Daily snapshot: February 27

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 27, 2010 12:01 AM

Fast track to gold? You know your bobsled team has had a pretty fine day when it makes two runs . . . and establishes a new track record both times. USA 1, which includes Steven Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen, and Curt Tomasevicz, did just that Friday to grab first place midway through the four-man bobsled competition. With a combined time of 1 minute 41.75 seconds, USA 1 holds a 0.40 lead on Canada 1 and is 0.44 ahead of Germany 1 entering today's final two runs. 5:40 p.m

Once more for Bode: Bode Miller has added three medals to his collection during his time in Vancouver (OK, technically Whistler), making the Franconia, N.H. native the most decorated male Olympic skier in US history. He'll go for a fourth medal -- and the sixth of his Olympic career -- during the slalom, the final Alpine event of these games. Fellow US skier Ted Ligety also has a shot at a spot on the podium, which two New Englanders, Jimmy Cochran (Keene, N.H.) and 20-year-old Nolan Kasper (Warren, Vt.) will try to make their marks. 4:45 p.m.

And don't forget . . . . . . to watch speedskater Chad Hedrick's final Olympic race as the US battles Canada for the gold in the men's team pursuit (4:55 p.m.). Also, if you're a curling enthusiast, the men's final between Canada -- which is 10-0 here but has some ghosts to exorcise -- and Norway begins at 6 p.m..


Gorgone zips through qualifying

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 02:40 PM

Boston's Michelle Gorgone advanced out of the qualifying round in the parallel giant slalom competition on Cypress Mountain this morning.

Her time of 40.19 in her first of two runs was the fastest among all snowboarders and earned her a berth in the field of 16 finalists. Those races begin at 3:15 p.m.

With a solid result in the bank she took a less aggressive second run and finished with a 1:24.63 combined, with her 44.44 the slowest second run among the qualifiers.

Gorgone is aiming to become just the second US medalist in parallel GS since it became an Olympic sport in 1998.

Daily snapshot: February 26

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 26, 2010 12:41 AM

How about nine? Apolo Anton Ohno has won two medals here in Vancouver already, making him the most decorated US Winter Olympics athlete of all time. (Two golds + two silvers + three bronzes = A heck of a trophy case.) The popular short-track dynamo has a chance to add two more tonight in the 500 meters and the 5,000-meter relay. But he might not be the only story for the US on the short track at Pacific Coliseum. Katherine Reutter is a medal contender in the women's 1,000 meters. 9 p.m.

Go, go, Gorgone: The US will have just one representative in the women's parallel giant slalom at Cypress Mountain -- Boston's own Michelle Gorgone. Gorgone will attempt to become just the second US medalist since the event debuted in Nagano in 1998. There are two morning qualifying runs in the parallel GS, with a field of 16 racers advancing to the finals at 3:15 p.m.

And don't forget . . . . . . men's ice hockey, of course. (Not that you would. We're not accusing.) Ryan Miller and the United States face Finland in one semifinal, while Canada -- which looked unstoppable against Russia and has 15 goals in its past two games -- takes on Slovakia in the other. Fair to say we're all hoping for a rematch of the US's 5-3 win Sunday? Because they sure are up here. US-Finland: 3 p.m.; Canada-Slovakia: 9:30 p.m.

Lago departs after risque photos surface

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 19, 2010 07:39 PM

Scotty Lago's Olympic adventure has come to an abrupt end.

Lago, the free-spirited Seabrook, N.H. native who won bronze in the halfpipe Wednesday night, left the Olympics voluntarily today after the website TMZ.com published suggestive photos of a woman kissing the snowboarder's medal.

The decision to go home was Lago's, according to a US Olympic Committee spokesman. The 23-year-old apologized to the USOC as well as the US Ski and Snowboard Association.

"At this point, no action has been taken against Scotty," said USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky.

In the first of the pair of photos published on the website this afternoon, Lago, dressed in a Team USA t-shirt and wearing the medal he had been formally awarded that night, is smiling as a woman kneels and kisses the medal hanging at his waist. The photos appear to be taken in a crowd of people on a public street.

In the second photo, the woman is biting the medal as he holds it.

Lago's departure is consistent with the USOC's emphasis on good behavior from its athletes here in Vancouver. US team members were required to complete an "Ambassador Program" before coming to the games, and the USOC has reiterated on numerous occasions that it has taken steps to avoid embarrassing public behavior by its athletes.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Women's halfpipe blog: Silver for Teter, bronze for Clark

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 18, 2010 08:40 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Add two more medals to the United States' tally here in the Winter Games -- and don't forget credit them to a pair of New Englanders as well.

Hannah Teter won the silver and Kelly Clark took the bronze in the women's halfpipe tonight at Cypress Mountain. Teter is from Belmont, Vt., while Clark is claimed by two states -- she was born in Newport, R.I., but moved to West Dover, Vt. at age 7.

They join Seabrook, N.H.'s Scotty Lago -- who won the bronze in the men's halfpipe Wednesday night -- along with Seth Wescott (gold, snowboardcross), Hannah Kearney (gold, women's moguls) and Bode Miller (bronze, men's downhill) as New England athletes to medal in Vancouver.

Teter, the defending gold medalist from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, had the best score after the first run at 42.4. But that was surpassed in the second run by Australian Torah Bright, who earned a 45.0 after flawlessly sticking her five moves to stake a claim to the silver.

"It was amazing," said Teter. "It was such a crazy event. It was crazy to be part of such a good show."

Even if in the end, Bright stole it with her golden -- and pressure-filled -- final run.

"I was standing up there [before my run] and was like, 'There's nothing I can do now. Whatever will be, will be.' "

Clark found her way on to the podium with a 42.2 in her second run, bumping China's Liu Jiayu, who scored a 39.3 on her first run and failed to take back the spot from Clark on her second run, finishing with a 34.9.

"I'm so happy to walk away with this medal tonight," said Clark. "I had fallen on my first run and to finish with a medal . . . it's incredible."

The US entered with some hopes of sweeping the event, but defending X-Games halfpipe champ Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight both fell on both of their runs.

The Teter/Clark combo marks sixth multiple-medal event of the Games for the US.

Update, 9:53 p.m.: Liu Jiayu is coming out of the gate now. She has the last shot at knocking Clark out of the top three and bumping Teter (at least temporarily) to bronze . . .

. . . but she doesn't do it, meaning Teter and Clark are guaranteed of medals. Teter's the last one up right now.

Update, 9:44 p.m.:Clark leaves the gate singing to herself, and after completing her run that included a 900 Indy grab, she's still singing a happy tune, scoring a 42.2 to put her in position for the bronze.

Clark, who was born in Rhode Island but moved to Vermont at age 7 and took up snowboarding then, seems to have lots of fans in the crowd, and many of them are waving gold and black placards that say "Go Kelly!"

Five more competitors to go, including Teter, so we'll see if she can hang on.

Update, 9:40 p.m.: There will be no halfpipe medal for X-Game champ Gretchen Bleiler.

After completing a pair of 540s during her second run, she lost her balance while appearing to try a third. Pumping her arms to no avail, her board slammed down hard on the edge of the halfpipe as she came tumbling toward the middle of the course.

She did not appear to be injured and smiled and waved to the crowd as she walked off.

Hight also will not medal after also catching the edge and falling during her second run.

So the US's medal hopes are up to Clark -- who is up now -- and Teter, the two New Englanders.

Update, 9:35 p.m.: The second run is underway, and Australia's Bright -- one of the favorites -- delivers a spectacular run that ends with a 45.0 score and a new leader.

Let's see if Bleiler can match her. She's sitting and basking in the crowd before beginning her run.

Update, 9:25 p.m. So after the first run, Teter has the best score by more than three points at 42.4, with China's Liu Jiayu second (39.3), and France's Sophie Rodriguez third (34.4)

Among the other Americans, Kelly Clark is seventh, Elana Hight is eighth, and Gretchen Bleiler is 10th.

The scores are not cumulative, so each snowboarder will have a chance to top her score in the second and final run.

Update, 9:19 p.m. Vermont's Hannah Teter takes over first place with solid if not spectacular run that gets her a 42.4. She didn't get as high as Bleiler did, but made it through the run.

And as we're writing this, Kelly Clark follows with a wipeout while trying to execute a 1080, and Australia's Torah Bright, who had the best score in qualifying, also fell.

Update, 9:16 p.m. Bleiler gets some big air and appears to be in the midst of a terrific run, but she suddenly slips after pulling off a pair of impressive moves, including what looked to be a 540 McTwist. She's in eighth place with an 11.0.

Here's Teter . . .

Update, 9:11 p.m.China's Liu Jiayu takes over the top spot with a 39.3.

Bleiler coming up, and she's animated, waving to the camera with both hands.

Update, 9:05 p.m. And we're underway in the finals.

Elena Hight is the first up for the US and third overall, but she wipes out after he board clips the top of the lip 20 seconds or so into her run. She receives a 24.6 score.

Canada's Mercedes Nicoll follows Hight and earns a 34.6, good for second so far.

* * *

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Would it be greedy to suggest the US could sweep the podium in the women's halfpipe tonight?

Well, yeah. Of course it would. But it's also not out of the realm of possibility.

Vermonters Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter were among three American snowboarders who earned spots in the halfpipe final during qualifying this afternoon at Cypress Mountain.

Clark scored a 45.4 on her first run, good for second place behind Australia's Torah Bright (45.8).

Teter, who won the gold medal in this event during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, was fourth, while fellow American and reigning X-Games champ Gretchen Bleiler was fifth.

A fourth US snowboarder, Elena Hight (perfect name for this sport), is in via the semifinals.

Clark, Teter and Bleiler had already advanced to the 12-woman finals based on their top-six finish in qualifying.

The finals begin at 9 p.m. More to come then . . .

Daily snapshot: February 18

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 18, 2010 05:42 AM

Piping up: Shaun White did his thing with style in the men's halfpipe Wednesday, defending his gold medal from Turin with a transcendent effort that included landing the Double McTwist 1260, a move only he has pulled off in competition. Tonight, it's the women's turn to show what they can do, with Vermont's Hannah Teter, the defending Olympic gold medalist, among the favorites, along with Newport, R.I. native Kelly Clark, the 2002 gold medalist in Salt Lake City, and reigning X-Games champ Gretchen Bleiler. It will be a surprise if the US doesn't claim another medal or two (dare we suggest three?) today on Cypress Mountain.

Feeling super? There's no time to rest and rejoice for freshly-minted gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who gives it a go this morning in the super combined, a day after blowing away the field in the downhill. There is some question as to how her injured shin will feel in the event, which is essentially a slalom leg plus an abbreviated downhill, especially since she's liable to feel some effects of Wednesday's race. Of course, as she's already proven, talent plus adrenaline and toughness can take you a long way.

And don't forget . . . The men's figure skating free program: Plushenko. Lysacek. Who ya got? And if you're not into that rivalry, we know you'll tune in to check out Johnny Weir's wardrobe curiosities.

Wednesday's results and Thursday's events

Posted by Yoon S. Byun February 18, 2010 01:06 AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Olympics sports writer John Powers talks about Wednesday's results and gives a preview of Thursday's events.

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Halfpipe: Gold for White, bronze for Lago

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 17, 2010 11:33 PM

Well, you can see why Shaun White is regarded as the Michael Jordan of snowboarding.

No one rises to the big moment better. And no one gets more air beneath him when he does.

White, just 23 but long an icon among the snowboarding crowd, proved head, shoulders, and feet above the competition tonight in the men's halfpipe final at Cypress Mountain. He scored a 46.8 in his first run, which would have been enough to win the gold medal in the event he also won in Turin in 2006.

But in his second run, he found a way to top even himself, earning a staggering 48.4 from the judges to do exactly what he was expected to do entering the Vancouver Games: dominate the competition. It was greatness personified.

As a punctuation mark on the redhead's instantly legendary performance, he nailed the dangerous and fabled Double McTwist 1260, a move that thus far only White has been able to land in competition.

"It was the savvy thing to do," White said. "Saucy. Keep it weird. My coach said at the top, 'Don't do this unless you're gonna stomp it.' "

White said there was no doubt in his mind that he was going to go for it on his second run.

"I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," he said. "I put down the tricks I worked so hard on."

Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen took silver. Scotty Lago, now the official pride of Seabrook, N.H., grabbed the bronze.

White's victory caps a huge day for US athletes -- high-profile ones in particular. Earlier, Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, who was probably the only American athlete touted as much as White entering these Games, took gold in the women's downhill.

It marked the third multiple-medal event of the day for the United States -- speedskaters Shani Davis (gold) and Chad Hedrick (bronze) both medaled in the 1,000 meters tonight.

The six medals are the most in a single day by the US in a Winter Games, surpassing the five earned on Feb. 20, 2002 at Salt Lake City..

White becomes the fourth American male to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal, joining Dick Button (figure skating, 1948 and 1952), Seth Wescott (snowboardcross, 2006, '10), and Davis (long track speedskating, 2006, '10).

As for what's next for White . . .

"Sleep," he said. "And then take on the world."

Update, 11:12 p.m. Lago fell on his second run, locking him in the bronze position while ensuring that White will win the gold.

Lago is, of course, thrilled -- the CTV camera catches him rejoicing while asking "Where's my family?" A nice moment follows when they find him for a group hug at the edge of the mixed zone.

Update, 11:09 p.m. Seabrook, N.H. native Scotty Lago will win a medal tonight in the men's halfpipe.

Which medal remains to be seen.

Lago was bumped from second place by Finland's Peetu Piiroinen, who scored a 45.0 on his second run. But because Podladtchikov, the third-to-last competitor, fell, Lago is assured of a medal.

Update, 11:06 p.m. Louis Vito won't make the podium, scoring a 39.4 on his second run. He needed to beat a 42.4 to crack the top three.

Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland is in third place, having scored a 42.4 on his first run, 0.4 away from Lago.

Update, 10:57 p.m. Here is how the five judges scored White's first run:

9.4, 9.3, 9.3, 9.3, 9.5.

No one else even approached a 9.3. Lago received an 8.9 from one judge.

The competition is in reverse order of finish, so Lago will go 11th and White 12th in the second run.

The US has some pretty sweet uniforms, with red, white, and blue plaid tops and pants that look like XXXXXXL jeans.

Update, 10:38 p.m.: So that's what they call Big Air.

White makes it look easy in his first run of the finals -- he really looks like he gets a couple of feet higher than all of his competitors -- and his score reflects his performance:

46.8.

It's the best score of the day, topping his own 45.8 in qualifying, and it should be plenty for the gold.

Lago, whose score White beat by a staggering four points, is bumped to second, while Vito falls to fourth.

We'll see if he breaks out the Double McTwist 1260 in the second and final run.

White's moves included massive air, back to back double corks, before concluding with what appeared to be a backside 900.

Update, 10:34 Louis Vito of the US, the eighth snowboarder to take on the halfpipe, moved into third with a 39.1. Lago still holds the lead with 11 boarders having gone of the 12 in the finals.

You know who is up next . . .

Update, 10:23 EST: It's supposed to be Shaun White's night, and chances are it will be.

But New Hampshire's Scotty Lago just earned a 42.8 score in his first run of the finals of the men's halfpipe at Cypress Mountain. He has the lead after four competitors.

Upon completing his run, Lago pumped his fist and shouted as a vocal US contingent in the crowd cheered wildly.

Could the US put a pair on the podium tonight in the halfpipe, just as it did earlier in the day in the women's Alpine skiing downhill?

* * *

SEMIFINALS

Update, 9:46 EST: Scotty Lago of Seabrook, N.H. advanced to the finals in men’s snowboard halfpipe on Cypress Mountain.

He will be joined by reigning gold medalist and heavy favorite Shaun White and fellow Louie Vito, both of whom advanced directly from qualifying runs, as US entrants in the final, along with Greg Bretz, who also made it out of the semis.

Workers have tidied up the course and snowboarders are taking practice runs right now. The finals should begin in roughly a half-hour.

* * *

There was no Double McTwist 1260-- not yet, anyway -- but US snowboarding superstar Shaun White sailed to a first-place finish in the qualifying round of the men's halfpipe this afternoon at Cypress Mountain.

By winning his heat, White earned a berth in tonight's medal round, which is slated to begin at 10:15 EST.

"The qualifiers are a strange limbo," White said. "We practice for finals every single day. This was almost more nerve-wracking.

Scotty Lago of Seabrook, N.H., advanced to the semifinals, finishing sixth in the second heat. The top three from each of the two heats qualify for the finals, while the next six in each heat reach the semis, which begin at 8:15 p.m. EST.

Lago said he had hoped to skip the semifinals to save his energy for the final.

"I'm going to stick to the same run [in the semis]," Lago said. "I believe that will be enough. I'll just land it clean and big like I know how to do."

American Louie Vito also is in the finals after finishing third in White's heat (41.8). Greg Bretz, who finished fourth in the second heat, will try to qualify from the semis along with Lago.

"I think the US put together a super-strong team," Lago said. "We're all top performers. Hopefully, we'll see [me, Shaun, Greg, and Louie] in the finals."

White, of course, is already there, having earned a score of 45.8 from the judges, the best of either heat; Finland's Peetu Piironinen won the second with a 45.1. But White's run was considered conservative, at least for him, and he limited his selections from his bag of tricks. There was no sign of the Double McTwist 1260, a daring and dangerous maneuver that includes 3-1/2 twists in midair.

White started with a Backside Air, followed by a Frontside 1080 Double Cork, then a Cab 1080 Tailgrab before finishing with a Backside 900.

"[A 45.8] out of 50 isn't bad," White said.


* * *

If you like your halfpipe with a helping of comedy on the side, keep an eye out for the French team.

All three of their semifinalists -- as well as their one teammate who did not advance -- are wearing mustaches.

"Some of the guys have arguments [reasons] for it, but not me, I just like it," said France's Arthur Longo. "It's a little wink to the crowd and something to smile about."

We'll be back with some live blogging from the halfpipe finals at 10:15-ish . . .


Daily snapshot: February 17

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 17, 2010 12:52 AM


Here's Lindsey: We've seen her in commercials. We've seen her in the SI swimsuit issue. Now, after concerns about her injured shin and days of uncooperative weather at Whistler, we'll finally see Lindsey Vonn ski. The Minnesota native and oft-dubbed "Face of the Games" for the United States team was the favorite in the women's downhill, but her true health remains somewhat of a mystery; she said the bumpy course caused her pain in her injured leg during practice runs. Vonn has proven her toughness before. Should she do it again today in victory, all of the hype will be more than justified. 2 p.m.

White-out conditions? Heard of the Double-McTwist 1260? Nope, that's not the name and calorie count of the latest offering at McDonald's. It's snowboarding megamogul Shaun White's mysterious and complex new trick, which he says he hopes to break out in today's halfpipe. In truth, the trick, which White refers to as "massive," is no joking matter; the 1260 refers to the number of degrees in turns he makes -- yes, that's 3 1/2 revolutions. Gulp. Be safe up there, Tomato.Final, 10:15 p.m.

And don't forget . . . Speedskater Shani Davis essentially used the 500 meters Monday as high-profile warmup, pulling out after one race to focus on preparing for today's 1,000 meters. His decision should be justified -- he is the heavy favorite as the world-record holder and defending gold medalist in the event. In terms of his legacy, the stakes for Davis are high: Should he win, he will become the first skater in Olympic history to win gold in the event twice.

Gold for Canada's Ricker; Jacobellis DQ'd in semis

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 16, 2010 05:19 PM

Update, 6:06 p.m. PST: Jacobellis did speak to the press approximately an hour after the end of the race.

She explained that she saw some family and friends she didn't know would be there, and felt compelled to greet them before meeting with the media.

Here are a couple of her quotes:

  • It's amazing to have had such a history in the sport and made such a significant mark. I'm only 23, and I've already accomplished so much. This is only one race. I just have to put everything into perspective."

  • "I've had a great career, but sometimes I dominate and sometimes I fall into a funk where things like what happened today happen. It's not the end of the world. But I guess I don't have the best track record with the general public."

    Update, 3:41 p.m. PST: Forget that part about quotes for now. Jacobellis didn't speak to the media in the mixed zone after the race. We imagine the USOC will provide some comments from her, and if they do, we'll post them here.

    We don't want to make too many presumptions here, but it is fair to wonder if Jacobellis has suddenly discovered a higher level of regret for her missed opportunity at gold in 2006.

    While she has dominated the X-Games and is regarded as the best women's snowboardcrosser in the world, the opportunity to call yourself an Olympic gold medalist comes around once every four years.

    It will be interesting to see if her mindset has changed, if this meant more to her than she let on all along, or if she simply shrugs it off as an element of the sport.

    One other note: Bob Ryan is writing a column on Jacobellis and the event for tomorrow's newspaper. Given his review of her performance in '06 -- I believe the operative word is "scathing" -- his take on today's development is already atop my morning must-read list.

    Update, 3:17 p.m. PST Canadian Maelle Ricker just gave the host country its second gold medal of the games, beating France's Deborah Anthonioz (silver) and Swiss racer Olivia Nobs (bronze) in the ladies' snowboardcross final.

    Jacobellis officially finished fifth. We'll have more from her, including quotes, in a little bit.

    Update, 2:56 p.m. PST Don't say we didn't warn you . . .

    There will be no redemptive gold medal for Lindsey Jacobellis in Vancouver. In fact, there will be no medal at all.

    Jacobellis clipped a flag and veered off course during the first turn of the second semifinal run, meaning she was disqualified. She immediately raised her arms and looked skyward, then grabbed her helmet with both hands, her disappointment and frustration evident.

    It's uncertain at the moment what caused her mishap -- she did not fall, but simply appeared to struggle with her balance briefly after a jump before slipping off the course.

    We should note that she showed a sense of irony for the moment:

    Completing her run to loud cheers from US fans well after the other three racers, she grabbed her board after going airborne over the final jump -- a similar move to "the Truckdriver grab" that caused her fall, and so much consternation, in Turin.

    Update, 2:43 p.m. PST Now that's how you make it look easy.

    Jacobellis breezed through the fourth qualifying heat moments ago, winning by roughly have the length of a football field. (That would be 50 yards, I believe.) There are now eight racers remaining as the first heat of two semifinal races is underway.

    The Jacobellis story, of course, is one of the more compelling -- and probably well-documented -- of these Olympics. During the Turin Games, she appeared to have a gold medal in hand during the sport's Olympic debut when she went for "method-air" style points on the second-to-last jump near the finish line, crashed, and wound up with the silver.

    She was roundly criticized for hot-dogging and taking it too casually ("It was just a race," she said), and the easy angle is that she's looking for redemption here. But there's a cameraderie-before-competition ethos of snowboardcross, and she never seemed particularly bothered by the mainstream perception.

    VANCOUVER -- So far, so good for Lindsey Jacobellis this afternoon during ladies' snowboard cross at Cypress Mountain.

    The same, however, can't be said for the course itself.

    Jacobellis, the 24-year-old Vermonter and Stratton Mountain product, finished second to Switzerland's Mellie Francon in each of her of two qualifying runs, completing the first in 1 minute 26.13 seconds and her second in 1:25.41.

    The qualifying runs have been delayed on a couple of occasions to repair problems on the course. The conditions on Cypress Mountain were sloppy and slushy yesterday during Maine native Seth Wescott's gold-medal performance in the men's event, and they are worse today, with fog and rain contributing to the problems.

    Workers toting shovels walk on to the course in between every run and fix divots and potholes as well as reshape the contours around the turns.

    The mishaps among the competitors have been limited and the cheering crowd -- many holding "Go Lindsey!" signs -- is undeterred, but the conditions are far from ideal.

    The quarterfinals are underway now. We'll be back at the top of this post with updates. Jacobellis is about to go now in the fourth heat . . .


  • Daily snapshot: February 15

    Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 15, 2010 05:04 AM

    Miller time: Actually, maybe that's not the best way to put it since Bode Miller has admitted that his disappointing performance in Turin four years ago could in part be attributed to his affinity for the night life. But the rebellious American downhiller and four-time Olympian says he is taking it more seriously this time around. "I'm psyched. I'm ready to win," said Miller, who owns a US-record 32 World Cup victories but has collected just a pair of silvers in the Olympics, both coming at Salt Lake City in 2002. He's competing in five Alpine events here, and he'll get his first shot at redemption today in the downhill -- presuming the weather cooperates. The race was among the skiing events canceled at warm and rainy Whistler over the weekend. 1:30 p.m.

    Maine event: Seth Wescott, whose gold-medal run in the inaugural Olympic men's snowboardcross four years made the wild, crowd-pleasing sport one of the surprise hits of the Turin Games, goes for a repeat today at Cypress Mountain. But the 33-year-old Mainah, who owns a popular restaurant/bar at Sugarloaf Mountain when he's not zipping around on a snowboard somewhere, may not be the best bet to reach the podium on the US team. Teammate Nate Holland, who crashed in Turin and finished 14th, says he has been focused on Vancouver since then. Qualifying heats, 1:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m.; Quarterfinals, 5:26 p.m., 5:32 p.m.; Semifinals, 5:46 p.m.; Finals, 5:52 p.m.

    Pearce takes next step in recovery

    Posted by Shira Springer, Globe Staff February 4, 2010 12:31 PM

    There was good news about Kevin Pearce this morning in a statement released by his publicist.

    The Norwich, Vt., snowboarder has taken his next step in rehabilitation from traumatic brain injury suffered Dec. 31 during a training run. Pearce has been transferred from the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City to Craig Hospital in Denver. Craig Hospital is a world-renowned center specializing in the rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injury.

    “Kevin has made tremendous progress since being admitted to University of Utah Hospital on December 31,” said Dr. Holly Ledyard, who treated Pearce in Utah. “He is able to walk and do many daily activities with some assistance. I asked him how he felt about being discharged from the hospital and he said, 'Excited! I'm ready to keep on going!' His positive attitude and determination will certainly serve him well as he moves on to the next phase of his rehabilitation."

    Doctors at Craig Hospital have already begun to assess Pearce’s rehabilitation needs. Dr. Alan Weintraub, who will be leading Pearce’s team at Craig said, “Our goal is to assist Kevin and his family through this challenging journey and help them reach their fullest potential in every phase of recovery.”

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