The snowboard action returned to Sochi’s Rosa Khutor resort for the women’s boardercross event, the final stage in the trifecta of Torah Bright’s Olympic dreams.
Torah fulfilled her quest to become the first snowboarder to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross at the same Olympics and did so with all the grace of a true champion.
Boardercross, as the name suggests is the snowboarding equivalent of a motocross race. Six riders are pitted against each other on a course of jumps, berms and woops in a minute and a half battle for the finish line.
Torah grew up competing in boardercross as a junior, but until last year had never competed in the discipline at a professional level.
Recently Torah revealed that in the lead up to the Olympics she didn’t have time to train in the halfpipe, as all of her focus was on preparing herself for the boardercross event. Not a bad effort for a silver medallist.
While they are completely different disciplines of snowboarding, Torah’s background in halfpipe and slopestyle definitely helped in her campaign to represent Australia for boardercross as well.
To be a successful boardercross racer requires one to be comfortable in the air along with strong edge control for the turns, a switched on spatial awareness and of course, a need for speed.
Edge control is also an important attribute of successful halfpipe riding. Being able to hold your line from the bottom of the pipe and up the wall at top speed is basically what propels you into the air. Needless to say Torah already had this skill down pat.
The size of the jumps on the boardercross course were not quite as big as those on the slopestyle course, so the airtime was never going to pose a problem for Torah either.
Unlike the other two snowboarding disciplines that are judged, boardercross is a race, and like most race situations, you have no control over your other competitors. This factor is what would eventually bring an end to Torah’s Olympic campaign.
Both Torah and fellow teammate Belle Brockoff were seeded into the same quarter-final heat as a result of their qualifying times. Not an ideal situation for Australia’s medal hopes, but one that couldn’t really be prevented.
During the race Belle held down third position with Torah close on her tail in fourth. As the two neared a final corner, Torah accidentally nudged Belle as she was unable to wash off her speed, a common occurrence in the sport.
Selflessly Torah pulled up, so as to not affect the semi-final chances of her teammate, bringing to an end her own Olympics campaign.
In an interview afterwards Torah explained how happy she was to see Belle flying over the final jump, safe in the knowledge she hadn’t impeded her progress to the semi-finals.
“My heart sunk because I thought, ‘I have just taken out my teammate. I am the worst Australian ever.”
In the semi-final Belle Brockhoff was accidentally taken out by a Canadian rider and eventually secured eighth position in the consolation final.
“That’s boarder cross”, explains Torah. “It’s so fricking fun and anything can happen!”
At the end of the event both girls had huge smiles on their faces. Regardless of their final placing, they were satisfied with their performances.
Asked if she would continue her boarder cross career, Torah shrugged: “You never know. This was a challenge and I did it. Everybody laughed at me and I said it’s just snowboarding.”
Torah is really downplaying her own achievement here. Take into consideration the fact that Torah just qualified and competed in a discipline at an Olympic level with just over a year’s preparation and you really have to marvel at her ability and confidence to be able to do so.
Torah’s reply, “it’s just snowboarding” gives you the ultimate insight into arguably the world’s most talented female snowboarder.
Nothing for Torah is out of the question when it comes to snowboarding. Challenges are welcomed with open arms. Imagine if she did the full four-year’s worth of training for boardercross…
Ryan Willmott is a former editor of Australian / NZ Snowboarder magazine with over 10 years of experience covering winter sport events.