Thursday, February 16, 2006
Bardonecchia, Italy Erin Simmons tried to put on her game face as she talked with reporters after the second round of qualifying in the women's Olympic snowboardcross event Friday, but she could not hide her disappointment.
"I just can't believe I'm not in there," Simmons said, glancing up at the course and then back to the ground.
Simmons, who grew up in West Vancouver, British Columbia, and rides for the Canadian national team, lives and trains in Steamboat Springs.
Entering the Olympics with high hopes for a medal finish, Simmons finished 17th in the qualifying rounds and missed the quarterfinals by just 0.16 seconds.
"Out of the start, I did screw up," Simmons said about her second run Friday. "I went out into a little powder area where nobody had been before. I was just sort of playing catch-up the rest of the way, and I didn't do it."
Each rider in Friday's event competed in two qualifying runs, with only the fastest run used to make the cut to quarterfinals. The top 16 riders advanced from the qualifying rounds.
Simmons was 14th after her first run with a time of 1 minute, 33.24 seconds.
Simmons, who sometimes goes by the nickname Bubbles, quickly found herself on the bubble in her second run, when the times posted by her competitors improved. Simmons also was faster in her second run, but not fast enough. She posted a time of 1 minute, 32.58 seconds, good enough for 17th but just more than one-tenth of a second from advancing to the next round.
"I didn't feel slow, or I just wasn't thinking about it," Simmons said about her second run. "There was so much snow and powder today. I know I hit some powder spots, and a slightly different line can be detrimental in this sport, and it was today."
Instead of riding in the quarterfinals, Simmons watched some of her Canadian teammates battle for a medal with American Lindsey Jacobellis and a number of other top riders from around the world.
Canadian Maelle Ricker posted the fastest qualifying time of 1:27.85, and teammate Dominique Maltais was second in 1:29.33. Jacobellis was third with a time of 1:29.51.
In the finals, Swiss rider Tanja Freiden took advantage of a huge mistake on a jump by Jacobellis to win gold. It appeared Jacobellis would win gold, but she appeared to lose control after going for a grab after a jump near the finish area. Freiden, who had been trailing by several lengths, sped past Jacobellis for the victory. A disappointed Jacobellis recovered to settle for the silver medal, and Maltais of Canada captured the bronze.
"I was really excited, everything seemed to be going so well, then I landed badly," Jacobellis said. "I got a bit frustrated because I have worked so much."
After the event, American coach Peter Foley said he was disappointed for his rider.
"I don't think she was showing off," Foley said. "She always grabs on the jumps. I'm disappointed for her, sure, but she's young and she rode great all day. What can you do?"
Simmons also was disappointed, but she said she plans to put the race behind her and looks forward to competitions in Lake Placid, N.Y., Japan and the Canadian Nationals.
"We still have three big events left this season, and hopefully I will feel better after those," Simmons said. "To bring a gold, silver or bronze home for Canada would have been incredible. You have the whole country cheering for you, and nothing compares to that."