Sochi 2014: U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson delivers under historic pressure to win slopestyle Olympic gold
Andy Wong, Associated Press
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — The women of the world exchanged hugs and encouragement at the start and the finish of the Olympic slopestyle course in Sochi Sunday afternoon.
But everything in between was monstrous, mean and history-making as riders aimed to tell the world “what women’s snowboarding is all about” while vying for the sport’s first-ever Olympic medals.
“I think that was a wonderful representation of female snowboarding today, and like I said, I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Salt Lake City resident and Australia’s “extreme queen” Torah Bright.
The 27-year-old Bright is the only snowboarder competing in three disciplines, and while the defending Olympic champion in halfpipe failed to medal in slopestyle Sunday, she wasn’t the least bit disappointed.
“I was so happy to be up there and be a part of this history-making day,” she said after finishing seventh. “It’s wonderful. And I was so happy to see the girls really throw down. It was so impressive.”
At the end of a historic day in which competitors showed judges tricks women had never offered slopestyle before, it was the four-time X Games champion and the top U.S. snowboarder who earned the gold medal — Jamie Anderson.
Anderson earned the gold with a score of 95.25 on her final run of the day. Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi won silver with a score of 92.50, and Great Britain’s Jenny Jones became the first from her country to win an Olympic medal in a snow sport with a score of 87.25. The women offered first-ever tricks in the sport, including fourth-place Swiss rider Sina Candrian's frontside 1080.
Anderson’s massive grin as she started her final run belied the intense pressure she’s shouldered as the sport’s heavy favorite.
“At the end of the day, it’s snowboarding,” said the 23-year-old South Lake Tahoe, Calif., native. “We all started it because of how much fun it brings. We’re basically snowboarding on a playground up there.”
She admitted that while snowboarding is as much a culture of camaraderie and easy-going fun as it is a sport, all of the women saw the Olympics as an opportunity to accentuate both the culture and the competition.
“It’s hard to find that balance between competition and staying true to yourself and remembering why you started snowboarding in the first place,” she said. “(The smile and hugs) I was just trying to keep it light. I was freaking out.”
The Olympics may not be every 'boarder’s ultimate prize, but it is something special.
“The X Games is the biggest event in our sport,” Anderson said. “The Olympics is the biggest event in all of sports, in the whole world, and there is such history to it. It was an honor to be here, and yes, there was more stress and pressure."
Jones said the sense that “the world is watching” and that athletes are competing for their countries changes the energy but not the sport’s essence.
“I’m very proud to have earned a medal for my country,” said the 33-year-old Jones, who learned to snowboard on a dry slope near her home at 16.
“Then I became a chalet maid so I could snowboard more often,” she said smiling. “I feel very proud to have gotten a medal for my country. It’s something that I didn’t even think was a possibility for me.”
Anderson received a hug from Bright before her final run, and Bright said she hoped it would bring the American luck.
“She’s one of the best riders in the world,” Bright said, “and I want to see the best do their best and win.”