Reuters - Mon, 15 Feb 09:33:00 2010
The Olympic snowboarding competition kicks off on Monday with the hot-dog sport of snowboard cross in which rainy conditions and limited training time have provided the athletes with an extra challenge.
Training has been repeatedly cancelled on Cypress Mountain due to rain and because organisers had to move in snow and prepare the course which was mostly man made due to a lack of natural snow.
The fast-paced sport of snowboard cross, a crowd pleasing discipline that debuted in the 2006 Olympics, is the first snowboard event of the Vancouver Games.
Riders will face off, four at a time, and race down the mountain course filled with jumps, sharp turns and steep downhill sections.
"It's a very trying and challenging course with challenging conditions added to it," said Nate Holland (pictured), one of the main hopes for the United States who won seven snowboarding medals in Turin and are aiming for more in Vancouver.
"It is a long course. There is a lot of opportunity to make passes and a lot of opportunity to make mistakes."
France's Pierre Vaultier is considered one of the men to beat along with defending champion Seth Wescott, Graham Watanabe and Holland of the United States.
American Lindsey Jacobellis hopes to make up for losing the gold in the final stretch of the race in Turin when she fell after grabbing her board in an apparent showboat move.
Switzerland's Tanja Frieden, who flew past Jacobellis to take the event's debut gold, is injured and will not compete but Canada's hometown favourite Maelle Ricker could put up a strong fight for the title.
Shaun White is heavily favoured to win the showcase halfpipe event with his newest trick, a dangerous double backward flip with three and a half revolutions ending in a blind landing.
The American women should also dominate on the halfpipe with defending champion Hannah Teter, Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark all considered medal hopefuls.
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