Bright day for Australia

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER — Australia’s Torah Bright upset defending Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Hannah Teter of the U.S. Thursday at Cypress Mountain to win Australia’s first gold medal of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Bright, who was fifth at Turin in 2006, watched as Belmont, Vermont’s Teter had a shaky final run with a 42.4 score. Bright got a 5.9 after a fall on her first run, but recovered with a sensational 45.0 from the judging panel to lead the field of 11 finalists.

“When I was standing up top I was like, well, you know, I did fall from that first round but all I can do is put that behind me and go and do it,” said Bright, 23. “I looked down and saw my family and all the other Aussie flags in the crowd.”

The Cooma, Australia native’s gold was also her country’s historic first Olympic medal in the sport. Bright said she would savour the win because she overcame a late-January concussion suffered at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.

“It wasn’t the easiest month,” she said. “I spent more time off snow than I did on.”

Joining Bright and Teter on the podium with the bronze medal was Kelly Clark of West Dover, Vt.

“Torah’s run was super motivating, you knew you had to be on your game,” Teter said. “(I) didn’t catch her tonight, (she was) on fire!”

North Vancouver-born Whistler resident Mercedes Nicoll was briefly ranked third, but finished sixth. She was 26th at Turin.

“The judges were looking for amplitude, so I just went for it to make everything a little bigger” Nicoll said. “And then I popped up too much and fell in the flat bottom.”

Nicoll was originally a figure skater who converted to skiing. Her father John was a British national team skier in the 1960s whose Olympic dreams were dashed by a broken leg.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Day at the Games didn’t translate into success for Sarah Conrad of Halifax. She failed to advance from the semifinals and finished 16th, one spot worse than her Turin 2006 finish.

“I’m sorry I messed up,” Conrad said. “My amplitude was working but my tricks were off and my timing was off.”

Olympic rookie Palmer Taylor of Blue Mountain, Ont. failed to qualify for the final and finished 26th.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

POLL