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    Monday, February 9, 1998

    Medal expected to give sport a big boost

    By TOM BRENNAN -- Calgary Sun
      Jamie Calon was already pumped, or whatever the equivalent is in the vernacular of snowboarding, after watching Canadian Ross Rebagliati win Olympic gold.
     Then Rebagliati comes on for the post-race interview and dedicates it to a pal, Geoff 'Lumpy' Leidal, one of six people killed in an avalanche near Nelson, B.C. last month.
     "He was a very good friend of mine (too)," said Calon, manager of The Source snowboarding shop in Kensington. "That was an awesome thing for him to do. First thing he said was 'this is for Lumpy.' I thought wow, that is rad."
     Rebagliati's giant slalom race victory, in front of a sizeable domestic TV audience, can do nothing but good for what has been a burgeoning, yet underexposed sport.
     "Nobody has really seen it before,"said Calon. "Without a shadow of a doubt, it will increase the awareness. It'll go from what's perceived as something fringe people do, to something way more legit.
     "Now you're going to see parents sticking their kids in snowboarding programs," he said.
     Twelve-year-old Philip Curley was out yesterday with his mom, Gabrielle, checking out equipment in preparation for a four-day camp at COP next weekend.
     "It's fast, I like the tricks, it's a new sport. And the racing last night was wicked," said Philip,who wants to compete himself "when I get good. I'd like to meet (the Canadian Olympians). Especially the guy who won the gold."
     Stacey Burke, who competed at World Cups in Nagano the past two years and narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics in women's halfpipe, was excited when she saw Rebagliati win. And she was already aware he had.
     "I was at the hockey game last night," laughed Burke. "But even watching (the replay) today I was going, 'yeah!' " she said, pumping a fist.
     "It was an impressive performance."
     Rebagliati's win should give a boost to the racing end of the snowboard business, which holds just a small fraction of the market compared to freestyle.
     "A lot of people have made big money from snowboards," Calon replied. "You don't get your own American Express ad (like industry leader Jake Burton) by being a chump."
     If Calon's right, there may be more glory to come. He's also predicting big things for Calgary's Mike Michalchuk in the men's halfpipe event.
     "If he stays on his feet, he could be top three," Calon stated.