CYPRESS, British Columbia — Torah Bright slid to a stop
after a near-perfect halfpipe run and put her hands on her head.
No one told her what her score was. The judges hadn't even
But the Australian snowboarder and practicing Mormon who makes her home in Salt
Lake City knew she'd likely achieved what she's been working toward most of her
life — an Olympic gold medal.
"It's been six years in the making," said her
brother and coach Ben Bright of the winning run that featured a trick that no
other woman has done, a switch backside 720. "That was the plan. That was
the gold-medal run."
It was a gratifying moment for coach and athlete, for
brother and sister, after the disappointment in Torino four years ago and
recent injuries that threatened to keep her from redemption Thursday night at
Cypress Mountain in front of a full house. In that rowdy crowd, which included
shirtless Aussies with Torah's name painted on their chests, were her parents,
Marion and Peter, who she didn't know were in attendance until after her
"I told them I'd rather have them at my wedding in the
Salt Lake Temple than at the Olympics," she said laughing after blowing
away the competition with a 45-point run. "I should have known they were
going to come."
When her brother told her they were among the rowdies, she
burst into tears.
__IMAGE1__Bright, 23, stood atop the podium, finally, as an Olympic
champion for Australia, her hometown of Cooma and her family. She shared the podium
with two Americans — Hannah Teter, the defending Olympic champion, won silver
with a score of 42.4; and Kelly Clark, the 2002 gold medalist who placed fourth
in Torino, won bronze with 42.2 points.
"My parents have taught me ever since I was young, if
you're going to do something, give it your best shot," she said. "And
that's what I've done with my snowboarding."
Bright's Olympic hopes dimmed last month when, in the span
of four weeks, she suffered three concussions. The most serious one was at the
Her mother came home from work, turned on the television and
saw her daughter being carried out of the pipe, head hanging limply at the X
Games, just two weeks before the Games.
Bright, the fourth of five outdoor-loving children,
dislocated her jaw just before Christmas. She was in the pipe practicing when
U.S. snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a concussion that put him in a coma for
There was a moment when her mother thought maybe this
Olympic endeavor just wasn't worth it.
"I told her, through her sister, just forget it,"
Marion said. "As a mother, it's horrifying. I hate when they get banged
After the jaw injury, things seemed to get worse for Torah.
"She had a terrible lead up to the Olympics," said
Marion Bright after hugging her daughter. "She hasn't been on snow since
the X Games. She's had three concussions since the new year. That's what it
takes to get a gold medal."
And while there was some discussion whether or not Bright
should compete, her mother said she always knew she would.
"I think she was always going to do it," said her
fiance Jake Welch.
Bright has worked too hard in pioneering her sport to watch
from the sideline.
""It's such a special event," Bright said.
"There's no doubt about it. There are different energies about this. The
whole of Australia tunes in for this. They don't tune in for X Games."
Bright planned to score big on her first run and then decide
what she needed to do to win. She qualified in first place, but like Clark and
American Gretchen Bleiler (who finished), she fell and had only one run to make
that dream come true.
"The plan was to land that first run," she said,
laughing. "But that didn't quite work."
Because she had the lowest score in the first round, she had
to compete first in the second round. No matter, her brother said, this isn't,
after all, her first rodeo.
"She was fine," said Ben, choking back emotion.
"She's been here before. She's been at the top of her sport for such a
long time. She was mentally prepared and mature about her snowboarding. It was
good to see."
Torah confirmed she didn't worry about the stakes, just
nailing the jump no other woman has done.
It's a special event, but I felt the same up
there," she said. "It looked the same as jumping into the X Games pipe.
The field of riders is the same. I knew if I put down that run, I'd have a
pretty good chance to be on top."