Snowboarding: Olympics drive big-name entries

By David Leggat

Shaun White. Photo / AP
Shaun White. Photo / AP

A glance at the fields for the halfpipe snowboard contests at the Winter Games this month supports Games boss Arthur Klap's assertion that it promises to be the best edition of the biennial winter extravaganza.

The entire podium in both the men's and women's halfpipe events from the Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010 will be in Cardrona.

That includes the celebrated "Flying Tomato" Shaun White - so named for his hair colour - the gold medallist from the United States and perhaps the most famous boarder, and Australian Torah Bright, who won the women's event in Vancouver, plus other Americans Hannah Teter, Kelly Clark and Scott Lago, plus Finland's Peetu Piiroinen.

A record 41 countries have entered the various competitions in the South Island, ranging from the big winter sports' nations such as Canada, the United States, Austria and Switzerland, and lightweights Venezuela, Taiwan, Ireland, Belgium and the British Virgin Islands.

Olympic and world championship medallists abound among the 750 athletes who will ski, snowboard and curl at the third Games, which includes six World Cup events.

The Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, in February and qualification is in high gear, hence the strong turnout of snow sport athletes seeking to secure spots on national teams.

"The Games is a vital stepping stone to Sochi and the importance of Olympic qualification is clearly attracting all the top names to New Zealand," the competition's chief executive, Klap, said.

"I would expect many of the medal winners here in the Southern Alps to be on the podium in Russia next February and this is our chance to see them compete first hand."

The Winter Games begin next Friday and run until August 25.

- NZ Herald

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