Winter Olympics 2002 Winter Olympics 2002


Snowboarding's crowning achievement

Posted: Tuesday February 12, 2002 12:58 AM

PARK CITY, Utah -- This is winter's version of beach volleyball, an Olympic jukebox where the music is not exactly easy listening, but the sport is hardcore. This is the second try for snowboarding -- it made its debut in Nagano -- but it hardly seems mainstream yet.

With its WWF-style play-by-play (you don't hear an announcer break in with "It's a 360 Roast Beef -- disaster!" at figure skating), its MTV playlist (the winner rocked down the hill to the Beastie Boys' Fight For Your Right [To Party]), and its helicopter stunts above the halfpipe lip (a 1080? that's three times around, baby), the sport still seems a little too far out front for the Olympic movement. It seems -- ack, dare we say it -- too much fun to be in the Olympics.

But following this week's competition, where the United States' Kelly Clark won the women's halfpipe on Sunday and then three of her teammates swept the medals count in the men's halfpipe the next day, well, the sport could be mainstreamed before you know it.

Monday's competition was a particularly persuasive argument for the sport. Ross Powers, who had brought home a bronze from Nagano, scored a 46.1 on the first of his two runs (best score stands) to win the gold. Powers, who began competing in the fourth grade, was the most Olympian of the three Americans, with a long background in World Cup competition.

He was chased in the standings by Danny Kass, who represents the X Games element of the sport. Kass, the 2001 X Games superpipe champion, did not seem wanting for his rogue-like preparation, scoring a 42.5 on his first run (and then giving it a wild try on his second, with his 1080 off the lip). His contingent was decidedly more rowdy -- at least one blowup doll -- and more the picture of things to come.

Jarret Thomas was third, with a 42.1, and the team's fourth member, Tommy Czeschin, finished with a strong second run to place sixth, a near 1-2-3-4 sweep.

Snowboarding is one of the most telegenic on NBC's agenda and it is popular enough to draw 10,000-fan sellouts to each session. If one of the performers wears a mohawk, that seems to create interest rather than outrage. It also doesn't hurt that a game that requires the element of amplitude in scoring, an institutionalized way of saying attitude (and big air), is played so high above the rim. And, of course, the music ain't bad, either.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Richard Hoffer is in Utah covering the Olympics for the magazine and Check back regularly for his behind-the-scenes reports from Salt Lake City.

Related information
U.S. sweeps medals in men's halfpipe
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