Snowboarding’s fickle gold medal

On Wednesday, Alberta snowboarder Breanna Stangeland grabbed gold in the Canada Winter Games female half-pipe competition. Then she didn’t.



On Wednesday, Alberta snowboarder Breanna Stangeland grabbed gold in the Canada Winter Games female half-pipe competition.

Then she didn’t.

The unofficial results were just that — unofficial.

Judges made a tabulation error.

Several minutes after Stangeland celebrated her victory, it was taken away.

The official results found Nova Scotia’s Alexandra Duckworth .10 of a point ahead.

 “I’m disappointed,” said Stangeland, warming up in the Mt. Sima chalet after the event.

“But I would have been really, really disappointed if it’d been anyone else.”

The two girls are close friends, and just laughed about it.

“We’re both happy with first or second,” said Duckworth.

“I love Alex,” said Stangeland.

“She’s awesome — she deserves it.”

Up on the mountain, after her first run, Stangeland was cooling down.

Bulked up to deal with the weather, she found it a little harder to pull off tricks.

“I’m used to snowboarding in just a sweatshirt,” said Stangeland, who trains in Utah for part of the winter.

“But I lost the scarf today to get my neck open, and that helped a bit.”

It also looked like Stangeland was about to lose her pants.

With the waist around her knees, showing off grey flannel long johns, her white snowpants were hanging low.

But that’s all part of the look.

“We traded with the boys,” said Stangeland.

“They wanted tighter pants.

“And we like them baggy.”

The tight pants, which were actually far from it, earned Alberta’s Peter White the gold.

“They’re the girls’ pants,” said White with a laugh.

After a shoddy qualifying round, the young Albertan wasn’t even sure he’d make the finals.

“I was doing bad all day,” he said.

So when he found out he made it, he took a chance.

“I tried a front nine on my first hit,” he said.

In lay terms this means he tried a fancy trick with lots of spins and grabs fresh off the gate.

And he nailed it.

“I had as much of a chance at the front nine as I did at winning,” said White.

The night before, White and Alberta teammate Matt Wallace got a bit of help from snowboard slalom racer Curt Rohm, who earned Alberta silver the day before.

“He waxed our boards for us,” said Smith.

The boards are also supposed to have their edges sharpened to help grab the hill, but Smith and Wallace didn’t bother.

It didn’t seem to matter.

Close behind Smith, Wallace earned Alberta silver.

“This is the best pipe I’ve ridden all year,” said Smith.

The 150-metre super pipe is longer than most, allowing competitors to throw in a few more tricks.

“Runs are usually five hits long,” said Canadian Snowboard Association rep Mark Fisher.

“But on this pipe you can get up to eight.”

And because the pipe is mostly hard-packed snow, rather than ice, it’s easier to grab.

“It’s easier to grip, and you don’t have to sharpen your edge as much,” he said.

The walls of the pipe are 5.4-metres high, and boarders often fly about two metres above that.

On her way down one of the walls, after a hit, Katrina Couch took a tumble.

But the Yukoner got back up and did a few more hits.

It was her first run in the finals, and she had one more to go.

“It’s not good when you fall on your head,” said Couch, pulling off her snowboard.

The judging is based on the best run, and Couch wasn’t fazed by her initial tumbles.

But the hometown crowd cheering her on was another story.

“It’s nerve-racking having family and friends here,” she said.

“I keep thinking, ‘Oh God, I hope I don’t screw up.’”

And on the second run, she didn’t.

“I think that’s the highest I’ve ever been,” said Couch, after kissing her boyfriend.

The trick is choosing the right music.

“I put on a good song,” she said, pulling off earphones.

“It shuts out the cheering, the announcer guy and everything.”

Couch’s mom Rosemary Rowlands put her daughter in ski classes when she was five years old, but when Couch got older she started figure skating.

When she grew out of it, and switched to snowboarding, her mom thought it would be cheaper.

But it’s not, said Rowlands.

“She works hard and pays for most of it herself,” said Couch’s dad Lance.

“I’m proud of my little jock.”

Couch was the only Yukoner in the finals.

The two local guys, Liam Ferguson and Gabe McFarlane didn’t qualify.

“It went alright,” said McFarlane, there to watch the finals.

“We only got the pipe last year. And I’ve only been riding it three or four months.”

After pulling ligaments in both feet and injuring his wrists, McFarlane spent a lot of time on the couch.

But even after all the injuries, he doesn’t plan on quitting.

It’s all part of the game.

“You play hard, you land hard, and you get up,” said McFarlane, who was excited to watch competitors from across Canada.

“I don’t plan to stop riding,” he said.

“So I will be seeing all these athletes again.”

In the finals, bronze went to BC’s Chris Astofooroff and Megan Chamberlin.

Alberta’s guys won gold and silver in both the snowboarding slalom and half-pipe events, a feat that was bittersweet for their coach.

“I told them if they got 1st and 2nd in both the half-pipe and the slalom, I’d wax my chest hair — and I have a lot of it,” said coach Mike Stastook, lifting up his shirt.

“It’s going to be pretty ugly tonight,” he added with a laugh.

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