Olympic Preview: U.S. sets to be biggest winner in snowboard at Vancouver

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Leading by halfpipe star Shaun White and snowboard cross ace Lindsey Jacobellis, the U.S. snowboard teams are striding for another harvest at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games from Feb. 12 to 28.

Snowboarding was developed in the United States in the 1960s as people across the country began to seek out new winter activities. And since its debut at the Nagano Games 12 years ago, American snowboarders have won 14 Olympic medals, including five golds and a men's halfpipe podium sweep on home soil in 2002.

The Americans should be particularly proud of their achievements in the halfpipe events as its dominant teams have collected 10 of the possible 18 Olympic medals awarded.

White, nicknamed "Flying Tomato", is unparalleled in the high-flying halfpipe routines. After stunning the judges and crowd to triumph in Turin, Italy four years ago, the 23-year-old talent has never stopped to try new thrilling tricks and keeps his reign in the event.

Although other top American snowboarders Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis were both excluded from the Olympic squad due to injuries, White should make sure that he would steal most of the spotlights on Cypress Mountain.

The U.S. women's halfpipe team has more than one favourite as 2002 Olympic gold medallist Kelly Clark, defending Olympic champion Hannah Teter as well as Gretchen Bleiler, the runner-up four years ago, build up a formidable squad, threatening to run another sweep of the podium just as their men's counterparts did eight years ago.

However, Chinese teenager Liu Jiayu has shown her capability of making a splash at her first Olympics as the 17-year-old has clinched six World Cup titles. The former martial art apprentice began her snowboard training in 2003 and triumphed at last year's World Championships in Gangwon, South Korea with the highest ever score in the women's event.

In the mass-start snowboard cross, American Jacobellis will try hard to prevent the nightmare in Turin from happening again. Jacobellis, leading all the way down, let the gold medal slip away as she fell in executing the last jump.

Four years later, Jacobellis comes to Vancouver as a favourite again. By now, the 24-year-old is the winner of 19 World Cup races and two World Championships.

Recently, the "lucky" winner Tanja Frieden from Switzerland announced retirement after tearing both Achilles tendons in a World Cup event. This time, Jacobellis, nicknamed "Lucky" promises: "That won't happen again."

As coach Peter Foley said, it was a huge battle to make the U.S. men's snowboard cross team as six riders have been on the World Cup podium this season and only four of them make the Olympic team.

At last, defending champion Seth Wescott is going to lead seasoned Nate Holland, World Championships bronze medallist Nick Baumgartner and three-time World Cup winner Graham Watanabe.

In the parallel giant slalom, the 34-year-old Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson is going to fight hard with the Schoch brothers from Switzerland. Philipp Schoch and his elder brother Simon Schoch made one-two finish at the 2006 Games with Philipp Schoch successfully defending his title. But Anderson has announced that he would no longer compete in the snowboard cross, showing his determination to achieve in the parallel giant slalom.

Anderson has collected two parallel giant slalom World Championships titles and is also a top athlete in the snowboard cross in which he won two World Cup titles and came fifth at the 2006 Games.

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