In case you missed it, I've attached a YouTube video showing Shaun White's "victory lap" in the halfpipe during the Olympics at Cypress Mountain. The Carlsbad athlete easily outclassed his opponents Wednesday night and earned his second Olympic gold medal with a first run nobody could come close to matching.
Now the questions for tonight's halfpipe finals? Will an American woman end up on the top podium spot? And can the U.S. squad sweep, which is something the men's team failed to accomplish?
Probably. And probably not. I'll go out on a limb and predict an order: Kelly Clark, Torah Bright (Australia) and Gretchen Bleiler. I don't think Hanah Teter, the defending Olympic champion, will top these three. She has had to many injuries and too little practice during the past year.
Bleiler, who won silver at the Turin Olympics in 2006, could easily win gold; and another dark horse--say, Elana Hight or China's Jiayu Liu--could make the podium--that's how close the top women are in terms of talent.
Clark, who won gold at Salt Lake City in 2002, goes bigger and has been the most consistent rider this past year. Bright is the best technical rider in the sport. And Bleiler, who thrives under this kind of spotlight, will post a high score.
It ought to be fun to watch.
-- Pete Thomas