Salt Lake resident and Australian snowboarder Torah Bright rides with a purpose
Andy Wong, AP
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — As she prepares to be the first snowboarder to compete in three events at one Olympic Games, Torah Bright wants to make sure everyone understands that her efforts on the snow are not simply about sports.
“There’s more to life than snowboarding,” the Australian known as the “Queen of Extreme” said after competing in the first-ever Olympic women’s slopestyle competition last weekend. She finished seventh in that event and will compete Wednesday night in halfpipe, where she is the defending Olympic champion.
The 27-year-old lives in Salt Lake City and trains with her brother Benny in Park City. She posted a heartfelt dedication on her Facebook page on the eve of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games that reminded those who love her innovative tricks that her efforts will be to honor people who are far from the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana.
“I am at these Olympics for multiple reasons,” said Bright, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “First, to represent my country and share with the world the sport which has blessed my life with beauty and joy. I am also here to honor my great friend Sarah Burke, who left this world two years ago. I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always.”
Burke died in a Salt Lake hospital after hitting her head in a training accident at Park City Mountain Resort in 2012. The Canadian was a pioneer in the sport of freeskiing, pushing constantly for women to have the same opportunities to compete as men. She was a key figure in the push to include freeskiing in the Olympics, which the IOC decided to do in April 2011.
Many freeskiers, including the U.S. athletes, compete with “I ski (or ride for 'boarders) for Sarah,” but the IOC told athletes they could not wear the stickers because they consider them “a political statement.”
“Wow,” Bright wrote. “Sarah is a beautiful, talented, powerful woman, who inspires me still. She is a big reason why skier pipe/slope are now Olympic events.”
Bright also expressed deep sadness for some close friends who recently lost their oldest child. She talked with reporters about the loss and how she will ride the courses and pipes of the Sochi Olympics with love for all of them.
“To me those relationships matter more than anything,” she said. “And it was really hard to be over here, and I just kind of had to get myself in a good place. ... I need to be strong for them. I was going to go out and give them joy by snowboarding my little heart out.”
She said she draws inspiration from Burke and strength from her friends. “I will draw from your strength and do what I need to do,” she wrote. “With an aching heart, I board for you beautiful Indira.”