By Bob Barnett
The American team had claimed five of the first nine medals awarded in snowboard events at the Torino Olympics, including the gold medals in the first three events, the men’s halfpipe and snowboard cross and the women’s halfpipe.
That level of domination was becoming a bit wearisome to some non-American observers. So when American Lindsey Jacobellis seemed to be cruising to an easy victory in Friday’s women’s snowboard cross, after Canadians Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais had crashed, there was a feeling of “here we go again” among some observers.
But that changed suddenly and dramatically when Jacobellis crashed off the second last jump, within sight of the finish line, handing the gold medal to Swiss Tanja Frieden.
And when the giant TV screen at the finish replayed the incident it appeared the American may have been showing off in the air by grabbing her board. Her crash landing caused one British reporter to mutter under his breath, “Sweet.”
American Seth Wescott and Swiss Tanja Frieden have more in common than the first two Olympic gold medals ever awarded in snowboard cross. They are also a couple.
More medals in the family
Martina Schild, the Swiss miss who claimed the silver medal in Wednesday’s downhill, is the granddaughter of Hedy Schlunegger, who won the gold medal in downhill at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz.
Also in the women’s downhill, racing for Liechtenstein, was Tina Weirather. Her father, Harti Weirather, waged some epic battles with Whistler’s Steve Podborski for downhill supremacy in the early ’80s.
Harti Weirather won the World Cup downhill title in 1981 (after Podborski was injured in a head-on accident on the Sea to Sky Highway) and the downhill at the 1982 world championships. Podborski won the World Cup downhill title in 1982 after claiming the Olympic bronze medal in downhill at Lake Placid in 1980.
Tina Weirather crashed in the women’s downhill on Wednesday, and fortunately was unhurt. She is expected to start in the women’s combined, super G and giant slalom, but the 16 year old is more likely to be a factor at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler.
And some of her fellow competitors in 2010 could be Podborski’s son Ben and Julia Murray, daughter of the late Dave Murray and Stephanie Sloan.