Michelle Gorgone, a 2001 Lowell Whiteman School graduate, competes in the parallel giant slalom snowboard race Friday at the snowboarding venue at Cypress Mountain. Gorgone was eliminated by Russian Ekaterina Ilyukhina in the round of sixteen. Friday’s race was marked by periods of heavy rain, fog and more than a little disappointment for riders with ties to Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

Michelle Gorgone, a 2001 Lowell Whiteman School graduate, competes in the parallel giant slalom snowboard race Friday at the snowboarding venue at Cypress Mountain. Gorgone was eliminated by Russian Ekaterina Ilyukhina in the round of sixteen. Friday’s race was marked by periods of heavy rain, fog and more than a little disappointment for riders with ties to Steamboat Springs.

Snowboarder Gorgone 14th in Olympic parallel giant slalom

Lowell Whiteman graduate has tough day on rain-soaked course

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— Raincoats were a must, staying dry wasn’t an option, and 2001 Lowell Whiteman School graduate Michelle Gorgone said the course at Cypress Mountain in the women’s parallel giant slalom Friday was like wet clothes coming out of the washer.

Gorgone got through the qualification round as the No. 13 seed before falling to fourth seed and silver medalist Ekaterina Ilyukhina, of Russia, in the first round of the head-to-head elimination races. Gorgone ended up 14th.

The top 16 riders advance to the head-to-head elimination round.

“We do 10 runs,” Gorgone said. “By the end of the day, it’s pretty brutal, unless it’s really hard snow. This is just pretty rough, pretty early. It’s like moving into the final two before your time.”

Nicolien Sauerbreij, of the Netherlands, won the gold. Ilyukhina won the silver, and Marion Kreiner, of Austria, won the bronze.

“In reality, I’m shocked right now,” Ilyukhina said after winning Russia’s first snowboarding medal. “In this miserable weather I’m am shocked right now.”

Flat light, low visibility and a constant downpour of rain were the biggest factors Friday at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in British Columbia. From the very first run to the end, rain pelted the course, making it difficult for riders in multiple ways.

The rain made the course — and specifically the top four gates — bumpy and slick. Also, riders had a tough time seeing the terrain.

“It’s pretty gnarly in there,” said Gorgone, who finished 22nd at the 2006 games. “I felt I had good time, and then I’d make a mistake, and then I’d have good time again, and then I’d make another mistake.”

As the day progressed, the conditions got worse.

Gorgone, however, was the first rider on course and looked like she’d be a certain contender.

She was first to run the blue course on her first qualification run. Her time of 40.19 was the top time and was even more impressive considering that seven of the top 10 first run times came on the red course.

In her second qualification run, a slip at the top left Gorgone trying to make up time. She was able to do so in the bottom third and qualified for the first round of head-to-head elimination races. 

“I’m usually not the kind of person who likes to go first, but I had to take advantage of it,” Gorgone said after the qualification round. “Luckily, it worked out for that run. The second run, I botched it completely.”

Against Ilyukhina, Gorgone fell behind 0.39 seconds after the first run. She looked like she made up the time on the second run through the first three gates. But by the time she hit the bottom third of the course, a wide turn that nearly left her on her stomach cost her too much time.

“We were either head to head or I was little bit in front because it seemed like I couldn’t see her anymore,” Gorgone said. “It’s one of those things you know she is there, and you’re trying not to make any mistakes. It’s something where you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Don’t make any mistakes,’ and of course, you make a mistake.”

Three other snowboarders with ties to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and coach Thedo Remmelink failed to make the finals. Canada’s Caroline Calve finished 20th, and teammate Kimiko Zakreski fell near the last three gates and did not finish. Australia’s Johanna Shaw finished 19th.

The men’s parallel giant slalom is at 11 a.m. Mountain Standard Time today at Cypress Mountain.

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