Torah Bright's halfpipe gold marks end of U.S. dominance

After a disastrous first run that saw her in last place, Australia's Torah Bright roared back with a second run brimming with technical prowess to win her first Olympic gold medal. It's Australia's first gold medal of the Vancouver Games and just its fourth ever.

A fall on Bright's first run left her with the lowest score of the first round, meaning she'd be first down the halfpipe for a second attempt. Five perfect jumps later, Bright was atop the leaderboard. Then she had to wait as 10 more riders took their shots.

Falls by Americans Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight eased some of the pressure, but defending gold medalist Hannah Teter and 2002 gold medalist Kelly Clark still had their chances. But it wasn't to be, as both Teter and Clark turned in runs that were good, but not quite good enough.

Though Teter and Clark won silver and bronze, respectively, for their runs, it was a disappointing night for the Americans. Gretchen Bleiler, who had been touted as a possible gold contender, fell twice on her way to an 11th place finish.

However, Bright's victory shows just how much the rest of the world has progressed in women's snowboarding. The United States team was expected to dominate the competition in Vancouver, but no gold in the halfpipe and Lindsey Jacobellis' failure to medal in snowboardcross prove that the United States' recent dominance of the sport has come to an end.

It's disappointing for Americans to see their run of medals snapped, but it's good for the sport. If an Australian can take home a Winter Olympic gold, then anyone can. Torah Bright just happens to be the first.

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