Snowboarder Torah Bright, Australia’s 23-year-old halfpipe rider known for her sweetheart personality and supermodel good looks, is poised to become an Olympic darling next month in Vancouver. Bright is widely considered the frontrunner in the superpipe, and undoubtedly the biggest threat to her powerful U.S. counterparts. She stands a good chance of stealing the gold medal – along with plenty of hearts – over the next few weeks, which means the Olympics will be her big breakout moment.
But Thursday morning, Bright became the latest halfpipe star sidelined by injury when she suffered a concussion while training for the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. It’s the latest in a series of hard knocks she’s taken in the last few weeks. She has withdrawn from X Games competition, and Bright’s sunny Vancouver forecast is now threatened by clouds of doubt.
Bright is hardly alone. The tight-knit snowboard community has been rocked by injuries during the march to next month’s Games. U.S. halfpipe stars Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis both had their Olympic dreams shattered in the past few weeks. Pearce remains hospitalized after suffering a traumatic brain injury on Dec. 31, while Davis is recovering from a fractured spine and broken pelvis after being involved in an ATV accident Jan. 19.
Up until Thursday morning’s qualifying round in Aspen, Bright was the only woman practicing the famed “double cork.” The new move, a dizzying blend of off-axis flips and spins, is the buzz of the snowboarding world leading into the Olympics. Several men heading to Vancouver haven’t perfected it yet. It’s high-flying, risky, and it happens to be the same move that took out Pearce.
While Bright’s concussion Thursday was not the result of a failed double cork, she has taken a few licks trying them. And whether or not she’ll have the nerve to keep it into her Olympic routine is, at least for now, in doubt. That said, I still wouldn’t bet against her.