The brother and coach of defending Olympic snowboard champion Torah Bright has launched an extraordinary attack on the standard of the halfpipe at the Sochi Olympics, branding it “f---ing retarded”.
Having watched his sister crash in her final training run ahead of her title defence on Wednesday night (AEST), Ben Bright predicted it was only a matter of time before a competitor was seriously injured - and then laid the blame solely at the feet of the International Federation of Skiing.
Bright said: “I’ve come to the point of being diplomatic, but it’s actually very shit. It’s come down to the final hour, the final minute. The men’s contest is going live to the world and the Federation of International Skiing has let ego get in the way of a good contest. They barely got it [right] in Vancouver [at the Olympics in 2010] and they haven’t got it here. So f--. Surprise surprise."
Asked if the course was dangerous, Bright said: “It is dangerous at the moment. You’ve got a mixed event going on - moguls and halfpipe together - so it’s f---ing retarded.”
Asked if he thought it would take a serious injury to convince organisers something needed to change, he said: “What does it take? It’s a shame. I’ve gone from being mellow about it to, ‘What the f--- is going on?’”
The issue with the halfpipe is specifically with its middle of section.
"The flat bottom is completely chewed up," Bright said. "It's incredible how they were even getting through there in training."
The men’s competition - which features Australians Scotty James and Nate Johnstone - starts on Tuesday (AEST) night, with Torah Bright and Holly Crawford spearheading Australia’s chances in the ladies’ competition the following night.
Torah Bright crashed on the final run of her final training session.
While she wasn’t concussed, she was promptly ushered through the mixed zone and back to the athletes’ village accompanied by team doctor Peter Braun.
While her brother and team officials did not blame the standard of the halfpipe for her fall, and she is no risk of missing the halfpipe competition, it did raise more concerns about the standard of facilities heading into the men’s and ladies’ competition.
The consequence is competitors have clocked very little training time in preparation for the biggest competition of their lives.
Indeed, there has been much consternation behind the scenes about the IOC and FIS using an inferior construction company to design the facilities at Extreme Park. American snowboarders, including two-time defending Olympic champion Shaun White, have been particularly critical.
They, like the Bright camp, believe the US company Snowpark Technologies, which is used for the US Open, X Games and Dew Tour, should be used because it has “the best reputation”.
Ben Bright believes a Cold War-like mentality has prevented FIS from using Snowpark.
“They wanted to show that they could do it better than old Uncle Sam,” he said. “That’s what’s on everyone’s tongues. That’s what is coming out of the athletes’ mouths. It might be time to give snowboarding back to the snowboarders.
“The governing of these events in the Olympic games will have to change, otherwise you definitely won’t have people returning. The Federation of International Skiing chose the wrong construction crew to build the halfpipe for the calibre of athlete and the magnitude of the Olympic Games. FIS thought they could do it bigger and better than the best in the snowboard world.
“For all of these athletes, who do it for a career and a living, and that’s how they put food on the table, they all knew coming here that they didn’t choose the best in the business to deliver the courses so they could show what they could do."
FIS Snowboard race director Uwe Beier conceded the conditions were not up to standard, but was confident they would improve.
“The pipe conditions were not ideal at the first two trainings,” he said. “This is why we decided to reschedule today’s training to tonight in order to give it more time after the measurements that had been taken last night to fix the issues. The weather conditions and a mix of other issues [machinery, maintenance, etc.] seemed to have made it difficult. However, we are ensuring that the team working there is doing everything possible to solve the situation as soon as possible.”