Fletcher finishes her boarding career on high note
Posted: Thursday February 23, 2006 1:14PM; Updated: Thursday February 23, 2006 3:01PM
Rosey Fletcher took the bronze in women's parallel giant slalom on Thursday.
BARDONECCHIA, Italy -- Last week Rosey Fletcher's snowboarding compadres were splashed on the front page of sports sections with their shiny gold and silver medals. While the U.S. halfpipe and snowboardcross posse dominated the hottest sport of the Winter Games, the U.S. did not arrive with a strong team for parallel giant slalom. Fletcher was ranked eighth in the world but considered a long shot to reach the podium.
The hybrid discipline of parallel giant slalom, which combines racing down a course and through gates against another competitor, is more popular in Europe, where the Swiss have a stronghold. Three-time defending World Cup champion Daniela Meuli took gold on Thursday to join fellow Swedes Philipp and Simon Schoch, the brothers who won gold and silver, respectively, on Wednesday. Fletcher, of Girdwood, Alaska, won bronze when she took a 1.5-second lead over Austrian Doris Guenther on her first run. She maintained that lead and zipped past Guenther on their second attempt to lock up the medal.
Fletcher, 30, is the only snowboarder to compete in all three Games in which the sport has been featured. A medal is a fitting end to her career. After a decade of carving on the professional circuit, she now plans to retire and complete a bachelor's degree in Scandinavian studies, with an emphasis in politics, at the University of Washington.
"I have been facing the five-ringed demon every day now, and there's no turning back," Fletcher said on her Web site. "I'm a little sad in the realization that this is my final season competing."
Before the Turin Games, Fletcher had not fared well at the Olympics. At the 1998 Nagano Games, she competed in giant slalom, where she crashed on her first run and didn't finish. At Salt Lake City, while ranked third in the world, she crashed again, this time in the parallel giant slalom discipline, and finished 26th.
"My first two Olympics were just really devastating," Fletcher said. "Salt Lake was probably one of the worst days of my life."
Last November she dislocated her jaw when she slammed her knees into her face on a practice run at Colorado's Copper Mountain. Though she was back racing a month later on the World Cup circuit, the accident, coupled with knee injuries in '03, hurt her confidence. But a renewed outlook, a second-place finish at a World Cup race in Austria last month and a recent engagement have given her a new outlook.
"I came in as a dark horse, but this time I didn't think about the pressure or the press. I was just doing [this race] for myself," she said.