Bahrke twists, turns to silver

Moguls skier wins first U.S. medal

Winter Olympics Salt Lake City 2002

February 10, 2002|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

PARK CITY, Utah - Freestyle moguls skier Shannon Bahrke grabbed the silver yesterday afternoon - the first medal for the American team - before a wildly cheering crowd that included 50 members of her family and friends from Tahoe City, Calif.

As Bahrke crossed the finish line, pumping her fist and smiling broadly, her former camp counselor was on a cell phone, calling the folks back home.

"Word's spreading. Everyone will know it in five minutes. It's a small town," said Debbie Wohler. "This will be on tape delay and they're bummed because what's on television is NASCAR, and they'll just have to wait until tonight."

Bahrke finished behind Norway's Kari Traa and ahead of 1998 gold medalist Tae Satoya of Japan.

The Deer Valley Resort course - the longest in the world - has been kind to Bahrke. The 21-year-old finished fourth in World Cup competition there and made the Olympic team on New Year's Day this year during the Gold Cup.

"I can't believe I'm on the podium," she gushed after receiving a bouquet.

Friday night, she marched in the opening ceremony and met President Bush; her idol, Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, and New York City police officers and firefighters.

"I think that gave me a little extra fire," she said.

Her finish also stoked the ambitions of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which predicted athletes would win 20 medals at these Winter Games, and promised bonuses for performance.

Some USOC officials had been banking on more than one medal - or a potential sweep - in the moguls, but, despite a promising start, it was not to be.

Sentimental favorite Ann Battelle, the 34-year-old, four-time Olympian, was in second place after the qualifying round behind Traa, the reigning world champion and bronze medalist in 1998. Golden girl Hannah Hardaway was in third and Bahrke sat in fifth place.

In the final round, Battelle and Hardaway skied at the end, just before Traa.

Hardaway said her degenerative back condition made her so uncomfortable that "three days ago, I couldn't ski a mogul to save my life."

She said she wasn't pleased with either of her jumps in the final round, even though she pumped her arms in the air as she crossed the finish line.

"When I finished my run, I figured I might as well try and sell my run to the judge, but I wish I could have done it sincerely," she told the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, her hometown newspaper.

Hardaway faded to fifth, Battelle to seventh and the fourth member of the team, Jillian Vogtli, finished 18th.

Moguls became an Olympic sport in 1992. Skiers are required to negotiate four-foot-high snow bumps as fast as they can and include two acrobatic jumps in the program. Jumps have names such as Daffy, Twister, Iron Cross and Helicopter, and often are done in combinations.

Time counts for 25 percent of the score, the quality of the turns is 50 percent and the degree of difficulty in the jumps and their quality make up the final 25 percent. There are seven judges, two watching the jumps and seven on the turns.

Yesterday, some of the judges saw performances along national lines. The Japanese judge consistently scored skiers from her country highest and the American judge did likewise. Several skiers called the scores "funky."

The men's moguls will be held Tuesday on the same course.

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