Snowboard Cross: The Newest Olympic Event
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Some more Olympic news now. American snowboarder Jason Hale has injured his knee in training. He won't compete in the Snowboard Cross on Thursday.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And Austrian Manuela Riegler is out of the women's Snowboard Cross on Friday. She has fractured an ankle.
NORRIS: That should give you an inkling about the rough and tumble world of Snowboard Cross, also known as SBX.
SIEGEL: It is the latest extreme sport at the Olympics. This is the first year it'll be featured.
NORRIS: To better understand it, we called Michael Bell. He's a snowboarding coach and a representative for the U.S. Snowboarding Association. Bell says it's a downhill race with moguls and jumps throughout.
Mr. MICHAEL BELL (U.S. Snowboarding Association): What they've done is created head-to-head four to six person race through a course filled with freestyle features as well as incorporating Alpine racing type turns. And the first one to the bottom is the winner.
NORRIS: So four people, all on the course at the same time? And would this be considered a contact sport? Do they actually crash or collide into each other or...?
MR. BELL: They most definitely actually crash. A little rubbing is racing, however, there are course officials that watch for improper tugging, pulling. But the riders will be so close to each other they'll actually put a hand on a back just to let the other rider know that I'm here, but that of course is obviously a risk. The rider in front falls, you fall behind them, and that's not their fault.
NORRIS: And do these athletes, are they fully padded?
MR. BELL: These athletes are fully padded. Up close and personal they're typically fairly large individuals as it is, then when you start looking at them underneath their clothes, they're padded up almost like a football player. Shoulder pads, back pads, kidney pads, butt pads, thigh pads, knees, the whole nine yards.
NORRIS: Is intimidation a factor here? Sort of, is there an in your face factor in this event?
MR. BELL: Most definitely. You know, one of the U.S. contenders, who unfortunately destroyed an Achilles prior to actually making the trip to Italy, Shawn Palmer, definitely has an intimidation factor. Some of the other gentlemen who've been on the world tour, they know each other pretty well and they kind of know what's going on and whatnot. But intimidation is definitely a factor.
NORRIS: Now, the competitor that you mentioned, Palmer, he has his own video game, right?
MR. BELL: Yeah. He's been successful in promoting himself and he has, I believe, an Xbox game, so.
NORRIS: So, this is an event that has speed, drama, and the potential for pile-ups. It sounds almost like a roller derby.
MR. BELL: Well, the most accurate, I'd say, correlation would be motocross, motorcycle racing. A scenario with bumps, jumps, whoops, turns, high-speed excitement, and the first one down wins.
NORRIS: It sounds, excuse me, but a bit inelegant for Olympic competition.
MR. BELL: Well, yes and no. The riders there are the most highly fine- tuned riders all around the mountain that you'll ever see. They're edging skills and carving in addition to just the things they can do in the air. What you'll see there is just pure snowboarding at its highest level, and then occasionally a little bump and nudge and possibly a pile up. It's packed with excitement.
NORRIS: Now, there's a whole new vernacular here, you're talking about their edging and their carving. What are we talking about there? We're not talking turkey I assume.
MR. BELL: Edging and carving, it's just essentially how a ski or a snowboard makes a turn.
NORRIS: Now, is it true that when these pile-ups do occur they're referred to as carnage?
MR. BELL: Yes. Carnage is a loose term that can be used in several ways, but, yeah, it can be interesting.
NORRIS: So, how do you win? Is it essentially the last man standing?
MR. BELL: Well, the Boarder Cross is set up is everyone will start off on an equal playing field. They'll all take a single person on the course timed run. The timed runs will then be set up into a bracketing system, similar to an NCAA Final Four scenario. And the brackets of four will proceed, most likely, with the top two finishers moving on into the next bracket. And essentially the last man standing wins.
NORRIS: Well, the competition will take place later this week, as we said. Thursday for the men. Friday for the women. If you could look into your crystal ball, what do you predict?
MR. BELL: Well, most definitely on the women's side from the U.S. Jacobellis. Lindsey Jacobellis is the clear-cut winner. She's been too dominant consistently throughout the World Cup tour for the past few seasons to be touched. On the men's side, I'd like to see Seth Wescott come through and pull away with it, but there's several other U.S. contenders in there that will also be challenging as well.
NORRIS: Well, Mr. Bell thanks much for talking to us.
MR. BELL: All right. Well, thanks for having me.
NORRIS: Michael Bell is the head coach of the Park City Snowboarding Team in Park City, Utah.
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