Boarders catch some 'big air'
Fun is the name of this winter Olympics event. Wait - don't you mean "hard work"?Skip to next paragraph
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To world-class United States snowboarder Ricky Bower, they are one and the same.
"People say, 'You worked so hard!' " Bower said in a recent interview. "But it was all what I love to do." It wasn't a sacrifice for him to excel, he says. From the first day he went boarding with a friend at age 10, he loved it.
Soon, he was practicing hard. He wasn't on a team, and he didn't have a coach yet, but he and his friends went snowboarding every day after school. He was having so much fun, it didn't seem like hard work.
In fact, "having a happy, joyous life" is the secret to his snowboarding success, he says.
Bower is a famous halfpiper. He grew up in Park City. His dad, John Bower, was a former US Olympic Nordic skier and the first director of the Utah Olympic Park. His mom, Bonnie Bower, started the Park City Winter Sports School, which enabled kids like Ricky to attend school in the summer so they could train in the winter.
At 17, Ricky was invited to join the US Snowboarding Team. A little more than two years later, in 1999, he won the Halfpipe World Championships in Germany. He was expected to be on the Olympic team this year but was sidelined by an injury.
If you haven't seen much snowboarding, you'll be amazed at the tricks the riders have up their pant legs for the Olympics. The halfpipe competition will take place Feb. 10 and 11.
Sherman Poppen never dreamed of the heights (and spins) to which people would take his invention. His snowboard - called a Snurfer - came out in 1966. He began by screwing two skis together and letting his daughter ride the "board" down snow-covered hills.
Many of the first snowboarders were surfers. Skateboarders, too, helped get the new sport off the ground - literally!
Tricks that were first performed on skateboards became snowboard tricks as the sport grew more popular. New stunts have been added each year. Snowboarding will be one of the "trickiest" sports in the Games.
Utah will host two snowboarding events: a racing event (slalom), and a freestyle event (the halfpipe). The halfpipe, modeled after the wooden structures that skateboarders have used since the 1970s, is a U-shaped channel dug into the snow. It looks like a huge pipe that's been cut in half.
The halfpipe at the Olympic site in Park City, Utah, (near Salt Lake), is bigger than usual. It's 525 feet long, 55 feet wide, and has sides that are 17 feet high. It has a steep 17-degree slope. (Most halfpipes are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 15 feet high.)
Participants in the Olympic snowboard halfpipe will have two qualifying runs. The women compete Feb. 10, the men on Feb. 11. After the first run, 25 men and 15 women will remain in the competition. The second run will cut the field to 10 men and six women. They will be the finalists.
Five judges will watch the event. Each will focus on a particular aspect. One looks at standard maneuvers, such as "air" and grabs (see glossary, this page). Another judge looks at rotations - flips and spins. The third judge watches for amplitude (height). Two judges will decide how hard the tricks were and how well they were linked.
Each judge awards each boarder a score from 1 to 10. The five scores are added up. A perfect score is 50.
Ricky says you're likely to see a lot of spinning and twisting, including the "McTwist," a popular trick that combines a twist and a flip. (See diagram, next page.)
Spins are a popular way for boarders to show their skill. In the Olympics, you will see 900-degree spins (2-1/2 times around), and even some 1,080 spins (three times around!). Watch for some breathtaking inverted (upside-down) spins, too.