Hip look hides harsh reality of boarders

Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:12pm EST
 
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By Julian Linden

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Snowboarding might be one of the coolest and hippest sports at the Winter Olympics but it is also one of the cruelest.

The sunglasses and bandanas give the impression of a laid back sport, but snowboarding is punishing and dangerous and the margins between success and disaster are as minuscule as the razor-thin edges of their boards.

High speed falls and injuries are common in snowboarding, even at the elite level, as you might expect from a sport where the competitors basically launch themselves off a mountain.

That alone ensures it attracts athletes with a peculiar mix of sheer courage and loopy madness, the perfect combination for a sport the International Olympic Committee hopes will help the Games and appeal to the next generation.

There is a deception about snowboarders that is not hard to spot. Many sport baggy pants, goatees, tattoos and lip and nose piercings. Theirs is a life of trash-talking and hip-hop music, far removed from other more traditional Alpine sports.

Yet for all the groovy looks and devil-may-care approach, it is also a sport that can be unforgiving. Rarely was this better illustrated than during Tuesday's women's snowboard cross final, which was looming as a classic showdown between Canada's Maelle Ricker and Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States.

RADICAL MOVE

Jacobellis could have won the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics but, with the entire field at her mercy, she wiped out after attempting a radical mid-air move on the last jump.   Continued...

 
<p>Canada's Maelle Ricker celebrates after crossing the finish line during the women's snowboard cross finals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 16, 2010. Ricker won the gold medal. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>