After a week of crashes and clashes Torah Bright found a silver lining in the Sochi halfpipe, only just falling short of defending her Games title but still becoming Australia’s most successful female Winter Olympian.
The Vancouver gold medallist was an agonising 0.25 points – the lowest margin possible – away from repeating her performance of four years ago, with American Kaitlyn Farrington (91.75) trumping Bright (91.5) with her second run of the night.
It was another edge-of-the-seat performance from 27-year-old Bright who crashed on her first run but laid down a flowing second effort that included four different spins.
At the Games four years ago she had also needed a second run to claim the win.
American Kelly Clark, the 2002 Games gold medallist, had the chance to snatch victory with the final run of the night but came up just short with a 90.75 to finish third.
“It was perhaps one of the hardest events I have ridden in, in a long time. It was just really challenging,” Bright said.
“I am just so happy the night’s over.”
Her busy schedule of three events had some worried that Australia’s best-known winter sports star was spreading herself too thin – particularly as the race-based snowboard cross she’ll compete in on Sunday is in stark contrast to the trick routines of the park and ‘pipe.
Before Wednesday night she had at times seemed pre-occupied with external issues.
She wasn’t happy with the slopestyle course where she came seventh or the condition of the halfpipe.
Prior to the Games Bright even suggested she might not attend if terrorism threats worsened.
But in the end she was determined to do it her way.
“I just didn’t care. I was dead set – it was going to be my journey,” she said.
“The road over the last four years has been up and down and very challenging and I just needed to do whatever was going to give me the most joy.”
Some commentators thought Bright had done enough to win, but the Australian was all smiles during the medal ceremony, blowing kisses to the crowd, dancing and waving.
Bright paid tribute to her brother and coach Ben, who had concocted the plan to become the first person to participate in three snowboard events at a Games.
“He has been such an incredible support to me and although he has a foul mouth sometimes and really does just speak his mind he is the most just genuine, kind, good-hearted person and he has given so much to me,” she said.
Her brother, whose only words of advice before the second run were: “I believe” said it was just reward for his sister.
“This time we went for style and perfection instead of technicality,” he said.
But he conceded it didn’t completely go to plan, the “imperfection” on her 720-degree manoeuvre the likely difference between silver and gold.
The medal is Australia’s first of the 2014 Games.
And with expectations of four or more podium finishes from these Olympics, it certainly comes as good news.
“What a relief,” Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates was heard to say when the medal was decided.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.