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    Friday, January 9, 1998

    Snowboarders ready for first-ever chance at Olympic medals

    By REG CURREN -- Canadian Press
     CALGARY -- Riding the halfpipe attempting to pull off the Method, a McTwist and a Haakon flip in search of Winter Olympics glory still seemed like a dream to Canadian snowboarder Derek Heidt on Friday.
     Heidt, 22, said he was still numb from winning a berth on Canada's first-ever snowboard team as the once-fringe sport has become a full-medal event at the 1998 Games.
     "I believe the sport will lose all of its bad stereotypes. The baggy pants and all that stuff, people who bring that up now are just bringing up old dirt," he said.
     "It's not where it is now. It's a lot more professional, a lot cleaner, it's an Olympic sport now."
     Snowboarding, which evolved from skateboarding and surfing, has taken the winter sports industry by storm. It's estimated by the Canadian Snowboard Federation that there are now one million recreational snowboarders in Canada.
     The 12-member Canadian team -- eight men and four women -- completed their trials on Friday in frigid temperatures at Canada Olympic Park with the final competition for the men's freestyle halfpipe team.
     Joining the Calgary-born Heidt is Mike Michalchuk, also of Calgary, Brett Carpentier of Mount Tremblant, Que., and Trevor Andrew of Falmouth, N.S.
     The federation has also nominated four men for the men's giant slalom event: Mark Fawcett of Saint John, N.B., Jasey J. Anderson of Val-Morin, Que., Darren Chambers of Whistler, B.C. and Ross Rebagliati, also of Whistler.
     Canadian women will compete in the halfpipe only and will send Natasza Zurek of Vancouver, Calgary's Tara Teigen, Vancouver's Maelle Ricker and Whistler's Lori Glazier.
     The halfpipe, a high-banked chute carved into the snow, sees competitors riding up and then flying two or three metres above the top of the wall where they attempt various tricks -- like a McTwist or Haakon flip -- with their board.
     It's a judged event, featuring six to eight manoeuvres, and Heidt says grabbing the judges' attention right off the bat is important.
     "For a lot of people it'll be the first time they'll have ever seen a halfpipe," he said. "They're going to see a lot of tricks they don't know the names for, but hopefully when it's done they will."
     Michael Wood, executive director of the Canadian Snowboard Federation, believes the team could come home with two or three medals as several of the athletes are currently ranked among the top five in the world.
     "I'm very excited about the team," he said. "We're very strong in the men's giant slalom, Mark Fawcett is ranked No.1 in the world."
     He also said the men's and women's halfpipe teams have strong medal potential.
     Wood said the presence of snowboarding at the Olympics will dramatically boost the profile of the sport in Canada. He believes it'll help to eliminate the roguish image the sport has worn over the past number of years.
     "There'll always a fringe in the sport who wear the baggy pants and party all the time," he said. "But all of the athletes on this team are hard-working.
     "They got here for one reason -- because of their dedication."
     CALGARY (CP) -- The nominations announced Friday by the Canadian Snowboarding Federation for the Canadian Olympic snowboard team:
     Halfpipe: Trevor Andrew, Falmouth, N.S.; Brett Carpentier, Mount Tremblant, Que.; Derek Heidt, Whistler, B.C.; Mike Michalchuck, Calgary.
     Giant Slalmon: Jasey Jay Anderson, Val Morin, Que.; Darren Chalmers, Whistler, B.C.; Mark Fawcett, Incline Village, N.Y.; Ross Rebagliatti, Whistler, B.C.
     Halfpipe: Lori Glazier, Whistler, B.C.; Tara Teigen, Calgary; Maelle Ricker, West Vancouver, B.C.; Natasza Zurek, Vancouver.