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Gold-medalist Torah Bright example of faith, dedication

Published: Thursday, Feb. 25 2010 12:20 a.m. MST

CYPRESS,

British Columbia — "So do you think Torah will be an inspiration for

young girls who are interested in action sports?"

__IMAGE1__Marion

Bright smiled at the man and then glanced at her daughter Torah, who'd

just won an Olympics gold medal in the women's half-pipe competition at

Cypress Mountain.

"You care about

that," Marion said. "People are always saying, 'You must be proud of

this' or 'You must be proud of that.' But we are more proud of the

lovely person she is than the consummate athlete."

Raising five children in the

small town of Cooma, Australia, Marion and Peter Bright relied on their

Mormon faith to help them

guide their children through the difficulties of life.

"She's governed herself beautifully by the principles she was taught," Marion said.

__IMAGE2__Torah

Bright grew up in the small town at the foot of the Snowy Mountains.

She was the fourth of five children, all of whom loved the outdoors.

"We

couldn't keep them inside," Marion said, laughing. And they didn't try.

Her mother introduced her to cross-country skiing at age 2, and all of

the children did what many youngsters in Australia do; they swam.

Naturally

athletic, Torah, her older sister Rowena and her brother Ben all

preferred skiing. Rowena Bright skied for the Australian Olympic Team

in Salt Lake City in 2002. Torah and Ben switched from skiing to

snowboarding when she was 11 years old.

"We

bought them some used gear and a lesson," Marion said after Torah's

medal ceremony in Vancouver. "We didn't want to spend too much because

we weren't sure they'd keep it up."

Not

only did they keep it up, it quickly became apparent that Torah had an

affinity for the sport that requires as much courage as it does

athletic ability. Ben became her coach, and the two live and train in

Salt Lake City.

Torah had a

disappointing time in Torino, finishing fifth, and has worked hard in

the interim perfecting tricks that no other female snowboarder can

land. It was one of those — a backside 720 — that helped her earn the

gold medal in the Vancouver Games last week.

It

was a surprise to some, as it was unclear just a week before the

competition if she would even be able to compete because of injuries.

Bright dislocated her jaw just before Christmas and then suffered three

concussions after Jan. 1. Plagued with headaches for weeks, she spent

most of two weeks in bed after a severe crash at the X Games.

"She

had a terrible lead up to the Olympics," Marion Bright said. "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."

When

asked about the string of injuries that kept her in bed, Torah said she

never really considered sitting out the Olympic competition on Feb. 17.

"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."

That's

also what she's done with her life, speaking openly and honestly about

her commitment to the principles of her religion in interviews with

reporters from around the world.

Within

minutes of Torah winning, and even after being named flag bearer for

her home country in the 2010 opening ceremonies, her parents began

receiving congratulations.

"We've

gotten messages from all over Australia," Marion said. "I hope all of

Australia can enjoy it as much as we are enjoying it."

Torah's

agent predicts that she could attract $4.5 million annually, making her

Australia's top-earning female athlete. She is a Roxy model with her

own clothing line — the Bright Collection. She prides herself on

modest, stylish clothing that would make any mum proud.

When asked if her daughter is ready for the pressure and scrutiny that comes with a gold medal, Marion smiled.

"I

think she is much more ready now than she was in Torino," Marion said.

"We taught all of our children, 'Don't do this because you want the

glory or accolades. You do this to be able to be an example to the

world."

She believes her

daughter's purpose is to use this new platform to convey a message much

more universal, and ultimately important, than sport.

"If

you're in the limelight, you can teach people how lovely it is to be

loving, to be forgiving, to be generous, to be grateful and to have joy

in the world," she said.

The fact

that she's one of snowboarding's top athletes simply gives her unique

opportunities to be an example of hard work, dedication and faith.

"Sports is such a wonderful venue to be able to express ourselves," Marion said.

It

is also through sport that she met her fiance, Jake Welch, a graduate

of Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, and fellow snowboader.

"He's

balanced me in my sporting career and my personal life," Torah said.

They met at a soccer game, and she admits to "chasing" him through

get-togethers with a mutual friend. Welch proposed in September in

Cooma — after asking permission from Torah's parents, of course.

Torah said the wedding is scheduled for June 4 in the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Now I can start planning," she said, grinning, just minutes after winning her medal.

When asked about the fairy tale turn her life has taken in the last few days, Torah grins and giggles.

"(My

life) is pretty perfect," she beamed. "I've found the man I want to

spend the rest of my life with, and I've won a gold medal."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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