February 24, 2006

Jacobellis slip tops memorable show

By Mark Meadows

SAUZE D'OULX, Italy (Reuters) - U.S. snowboarder Lindsey
Jacobellis had snowboard cross victory in her sights before
inexplicably tumbling on the penultimate jump, producing one of
the most memorable sporting moments of the Games.

Only Jacobellis really knows if her calamity was a genuine
mistake or whether by attempting to grab her board she was
showing off before reaching the line in Bardonecchia.

"(Grabbing the board) helps you stabilize in the air," the
20-year-old said when asked if she was showboating, before
later backtracking slightly.

Switzerland's Tanja Frieden took advantage to snatch an
unlikely gold with Canadian challengers Dominique Maltais and
Maelle Ricker well behind after spectacular crashes which
symbolized the fast and furious nature of the four-way races.

The fact that Frieden was dating U.S. men's gold medallist
Seth Wescott made the Olympic debut of snowboard cross all the
more headline-grabbing.

It left halfpipe and parallel giant slalom in the shade,
especially as the favorites kept winning.

First Shaun White, "the Flying Tomato," recovered from a
shaky first qualifying run to easily take men's halfpipe gold
and then Hannah Teter, also 19, made it a U.S. double when she
held off the challenge of team mate Gretchen Bleiler.

"Hang it on the wall, is that a good thing to do with it?
I'll probably take it up to our house in Vermont. I'll probably
just staple it to the wall," Teter said of her gold medal.

The casual attitude of the snowboarders did not fit the
traditional image of the Olympics and neither did the music,
with a German called DJ Chainsaw playing each competitor's
favorite rock tune to accompany their halfpipe run.

The U.S. nearly claimed a clean sweep of the halfpipe
medals but for bronze medallist Markku Koski of Finland in the
men's and Norwegian Kjersti Buaas, who was third in the women's
to edge 2002 champion Kelly Clark of the U.S. into fourth.

While the U.S. were dominant in half pipe, the Swiss took
total command as expected in parallel giant slalom.

Philipp Schoch became the first snowboarder to retain an
Olympic title when he edged out his older brother Simon in the
final while compatriot Daniela Meuli took women's gold despite
a determined fight from 18-year-old Amelie Kober of Germany.

It ended U.S. 3-3 Switzerland in terms of medals but
snowboard cross was the clear winner.