Photos: Huggy
Words: Pat Bridges

After two practice sessions which left many reconsidering their definition of "Olympic caliber snowboarding" the u-tube at the base of Cypress finally firmed up and took shape as the world class venue it has been preordained as being. The third and final warm-up for the main event saw the field finding their lines and throwing tricks worthy of gold medal contention.

“Noticeably absent in this session was none other than Shaun White.”

The double cork, which has been a separator on the American contest scene this whole season, has now become part of the repertoire of many international contenders including Kazuhiro Kokubo, Mathieu Crepel, Iouri Podladtchikov, Markus Keller, and Peetu Piiroinen, to name a few. This means that a repeat of the American podium sweep from the 2002 Salt Lake Games–which seemed to be a distinct possibility a mere month ago–is now less feasible. Still, Greg Bretz, Scotty Lago and Louie Vito were looking strong in this last minute practice. Noticeably absent in this session was none other than Shaun White. It was widely speculated that his superior displays in the less-than-ideal conditions of the previous practice sessions left him confident enough in his skills, regardless of the pipe conditions. His exclusion from the Tuesday practice could be a good call as everyone went into the evening knowing that they were playing catch-up and abstaining from riding gave him the advantage of an extra day to recoup and rest for Wednesday's main event.

For the ladies, this practice session showed that the field is more evenly matched than previously expected. While the American squad of Clark, Teter, Bleiler and Hight were focused on their A-runs, other riders like Bright, Crawford, Soko and Buass each set down what looked to be tricks that could put them each in medal contention.

With conditions improving by the second it looks like those who predicted a halfpipe debacle come time for what has become the marquee Olympic event of these games, will be sorely disappointed come showtime.