2010 Winter Olympics: Snowboarding Medal Favorites
The young sport of snowboarding has grown into one of the most popular sports in the Winter Olympics. The American team is among the medal favorites. But they’re not alone. There’ll be strong snowboarders from several countries in Vancouver, this year. Combine that with the recent accidents that have hit the American team, the American team might just have a fight on their hands.
The U.S. remains the world superpower in the halfpipe, and the biggest name on the American team is Shaun White, the "Flying Tomato." White became a media star at the 2006 Olympics, when he took gold. White is a master at the halfpipe and has won just about every competition in the world at one time or another. In 2009, he won the Snowboarding Grand Prix, the New Zealand World Cup, along with one gold medal, two silvers, and a bronze on the Winter Dew Tour.
Snowboarding is inherently dangerous. Unfortunately, the U.S. Snowboarding team has experienced its share of traumatic injuries this year. Kevin Pearce, one of the world's best snowboarders, sustained a severe brain trauma on December 31st when he hit his head on the edge of the halfpipe wall. At this point, his long-term recovery prognosis remains uncertain.
The U.S. women are also strong at halfpipe. 2006 silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler is back again and looking for gold. Since 2008, she’s been named Dew Tour Champion, won three other international events, and medaled in five other events. Bleiler’s teammate Kelly Clark is also a medal favorite. She won gold at the 2002 Olympics, but finished just outside the medals in 2006. In the 2008-2009 season, she earned eight medals (five golds) in international competition and she is already off to a good start this year by winning the New Zealand Open. Hannah Teter, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, it hoping to repeat in Vancouver. Though she hasn’t been as prolific as her teammates, she won three medals in 2009, including a gold medal at the 2009 Grand Prix. The American women have proven that they have what it takes to win, but they’ll have tough competition in Vancouver.
Team U.S.A. is also a growing force in snowboard cross thanks to its deep roster of top athletes. On the men’s side, Graham Watanabe, Nate Holland, Nick Baumgartner, and Seth Wescott lead the field. Graham Watanabe is currently ranked 2nd in the world. Nate Holland won the gold medal at the 2009 X Games and is currently ranked third in overall standings. 2006 Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott has also won World Cup events, World Championships, and the Jeep King of the Mountain Champion.
On women’s side, Lindsey Jacobellis has already won two World Cup events this season. Lindsey has dominated the snowboard cross in the X Games. She won the event in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. She took the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics after a fall just prior to the finish line. She is hoping to redeem herself and take the gold that she just missed in Torino.
Canada will also bring a strong team to Winter Games in Vancouver. They are particularly strong in snowboard cross. Two Canadian women to watch are Dominique Maltais and Maelle Ricker. Dominique Maltais is another Canadian snowboard cross medal favorite. She won a bronze in Torino and 16 World Cup medals. Maelle Ricker is currently ranked number one in the world at snowboard cross. She has already won three World cup events this year and medaled in all the rest. She competed in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, but failed to medal. She is at the top of her game and planning for Olympic gold.
On the men’s side, Canada’s strongest snowboarding event is the parallel giant slalom. Canada’s has three men who have been consistently near the top of World Cup competition: Matt Morrison, Jasey-Jay Anderson, and Michael Lambert. Anderson is the reigning World Champion (for the fourth time). He is off to a great start this season with two World Cup gold medals and a bronze. Morrison won a World Cup event in December 2009 and got a bronze in the 2009 World Championships. Lambert is also having a good year, having already earned one gold and one silver in the last two months. If the Canadian men stay in good form, they’ll be tough to beat in parallel giant slalom.
Europe and Asia
The North Americans aren’t the only athletes with a chance to take home snowboarding medals. The following athletes also have a shot at medaling in Vancouver.
Parallel Giant Slalom:
Andreas Prommeger (Austria)
Benjamin Karl (Austria)
Mattieu Bozzetto (France)
Nicolien Sauerbreij (Nederlands)
Amelie Kober (Germany)
Doris Guenther (Austria)
Pierre Vaultier (France)
Helene Olafsen (Norway)
Alexandra Jekova (Bulgaria)
Kazuhiro Kokubo (Japan)
Koehei Kudo (Japan)
Dalsuke Murakami (Japan)
Cai Xuetong (China)
Sophie Rodriguez (France)
Sun Zhifeng (China)
Sarka Pancochova (Czech Republic)