Bright’s night to shine in Aspen X |

Bright’s night to shine in Aspen X

Nate Peterson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Sheena Harper The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Australia’s Torah Bright left Buttermilk with her second gold medal in three years Friday night while Aspen hometown favorite Gretchen Bleiler left with a headache.

The curse of the superpipe is real.

Bleiler, if she didn’t already know, found that out the hard way, becoming the most recent defending snowboard pipe champion to fall short in a title defense when she crashed violently just seconds into her second run.

The Aspen local undershot her landing on an opening 720, smacked down hard on the lip of the 22-foot tall pipe, then flipped backward, head over heels, down its icy left wall before ending up motionless at the bottom. In the process, she slammed the back of her head twice, knocking off her helmet and goggles.

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Medical staff swarmed her within seconds, but Bleiler got up after a few tense moments and snowboarded down the mountain on her own power, flashing her winning smile at the bottom.

Her night was over, though. The unlucky streak lives on.

In the history of the Winter X Games, no snowboarder ” male or female ” has ever won back-to-back golds in the superpipe.

“I think it’s got a little bit to do with the progression of women’s right now,” said Bright, attempting to explain the hot potato medal trend. “Someone’s always trying to bring a new trick out of the bag, and I don’t know, we’re all just trying to become better snowboarders.”

Bleiler couldn’t repeat after winning in 2003, 2005 and 2008, while Bright ” who won with a sparkling 91.33-point run ” succumbed to the same fate last January after winning at Buttermilk in 2007. The two aren’t without company.

Friday’s silver medalist Kelly Clark of Mount Snow, Vt., failed to repeat after winning in 2002 and 2006, while bronze medalist Hannah Teter, also of Vermont, wound up with the same medal color a year after claiming the pipe crown in 2004.

Bright, in light of Bleiler’s fall, said she was just happy to walk away on her own power after taking a tumble of her own during practice Friday. She snowboarded with a strapped down left shoulder that is causing her perpetual discomfort, she said.

The 21-year-old from Cooma, Australia, boosted herself into first place, ahead of Clark, when she cleanly executed a second run that opened with a backside 360 and was highlighted by a switch, backside 720. Bright also threw in a McTwist, an air-to-fakie and ended with a huge backside 720.

No other women’s pipe rider in the world is doing switch, backside 720s, a trick that Clark admitted sets Bright apart.

To go with her silver, Clark ” whose second run earned 88.33 points ” had a black eye and a scrape on her face, the result of a hard fall on her final run, which gave the gold to Bright.

“Should have seen the other guy,” Clark joked, before adding she had planned to attempt a 900 before the hard fall.

Teter didn’t have any injuries to report, just that she was happy to win some prize money for the African village she supports with her contest earnings. She also seemed unabashedly disinterested at the press conference following the final, leaning back in her chair and putting her feet up on the banquet table while Bright was speaking, then answering a call on her cell phone.

Bleiler didn’t come to the media tent after the final, but friend and fellow Aspen snowboarder Tricia Byrnes said that the 27-year-old local was just shaken up. Bright, Clark and Teter all said the same thing, mentioning that Bleiler didn’t have any serious injuries past a headache and a bruised buttocks from a fall Thursday.

Still, the tumble Friday night ” replayed over and over ” left Bright, Clark and Teter wincing at the sight of their friend in such a bad spot.

“That was heavy,” Teter said.

Added Bright: “We’ve all taken our fair share of beatings this week. It was rough, but everybody, I think, just wants to ride their best and have everybody else do well.”

1. Torah Bright / Cooma, Australia / 91.33

2. Kelly Clark / Mount Snow, Vt. / 88.33

3. Hannah Teter / South Lake Tahoe, Calif. / 83.00

4. Ellery Hollingsworth / Darien, Conn. / 70.66

5. Kaitlyn Farrington / Bellevue, Idaho / 66.00

6. Gretchen Bleiler/ Aspen, Colo. / 40.00

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