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03/01/2010

Olympic Memory, Kristi Richards

Steve Russell/Staff Photographer

Every Olympics we are usually asked to write about our favourite Olympic memory.

There are so many that it is hard to isolate just one, but if I had to, I would have to say it was Kristi Richards' second run in the Ladies' Moguls.

If you recall Kristi did not medal, she fell.

Why is that my favourite moment of the games?

Because of what she did after she fell.

I'll tell you what I saw in training, because this is what makes the moment special to me.

Moguls training is a pretty cool thing to watch, the skiers defy gravity and fly through a tough mogul section with their legs absorbing them while their upper bodies seem to float down the hill. 

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Kristi Richards goes off the lower jump on the Moguls course. 

The course is laid out with a jump on the top, a long section of moguls and a jump near the bottom. During training the skiers rarely do the whole run in one go.

They tend to go over the first jump and then pause somewhere in-between the jumps to talk to a coach or set themselves to run the bottom jump.

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Kristi Richards works the moguls. 

Some might actually take off their skis and walk up the side of the course back to the top. Rather than go all the way down and take the lift back up.

As I watched Kristi train I noticed that she tended to do that. The whole time I was out there is would take the jump, take off her skis and walk up to her coach, talk and try again. Sure she would mix a full run in once in a while.

As time passed and there were fewer skiers on the hill and fewer photographers on the bottom of the hill she turned her attention to the bottom jump, a back full, a back flip with a full twist.

Same routine, make the jump, stop, climb up to coach, talk, climb a little further up, repeat. 

I was the last photographer, she the last skier, I left, packed my gear and began the walk to the bus. While waiting for the bus I could see the mogul course through the trees and Kristi Richards on it, make the lower jump, stop, climb up to coach, talk, climb a little further up, repeat. 

She was still at it as the bus pulled away.

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Kristi Richards is the last skier on the Hill during training, working on her back full off the lower jump. 

The on the day of competition she qualified fourth for the final, there was a chance that we might have two Canadians on the podium.

Her first jump was awesome, a  Back Puck/Pike with position was flawless, Kristi scored higher on the first jump than any of the other competitors, including the medalists.

She was roaring down the hill when she couldn't stay on her skis. She fell in the middle of the course. Just like that her medal hope was gone.

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Kristi Richards loses control 

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The fall begins and so does her hopes of the podium.

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Kristi Richards is bounced around on the moguls. 
 

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Ski in hand, Richards walks to the edge of the mogul run. 

Richards picked up her ski, moved to the side of the course, put her ski back on and slowly moved to the centre of the course again to line up with her ramp.

She paused, and began her run down the course her last jump, the back full.

It was wicked! She nailed it!

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Krist Richards nails the Back Full off the bottom jump. 

She finished 20th of 20 but she won a lot of respect from the people on the hill!

Other Toronto Star Staff Olympic Memories

-srussell@thestar.ca

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Steve, you're right. This was an awesome moment that made all of us watching very proud to be Canadian. Your coverage of the games and your stories from the inside are very much appreciated! Great job.

She's always been a hero to her hometown of Summerland, but the grace and dignity with which Kristi handled this moment made her truly shine (even if it wasn't with a medal).

Yup, that is Kristi... last one on the course training till she is satisfied she has it dialed.....AND SHE HAD IT!!....
As her Mom, even though I had not talked to her prior to the competition, I knew she would risk it all....that is what a true athlete is all about. I am really proud of her for pushing herself and her sport to the limit. Given the poor conditions, and knowing she was going for it all regardless, as a Mom it was a really crazy anxious time for me .

Steve, what I appreciate the most is that there are many Canadians who truly understand what Kristi achieved. It is not about the medal she did not get...it is about the courage and grace she displayed.

You captured the real Kristi...in photos and yup, that WAS her best Back Full. She is Japan now training, with 5 more world cups before season ending at end of March. Would not be surprised if she pulls a medal with her determination to nail the entire run to perfection.

thanks for posting this, it was my favorite Olympic memory too. when i watch it i'm reminded of a scene in the movie "Tin Cup". Kevin Costner's character doggedly refuses to take the safe play and lay up at the expense of winning and after he finally makes his shot he beats himself up about having passed up a chance to win but Renee Russo's character says " Roy, it was the greatest 12 in the history of the US Open. long after they forget who won they'll be talking about your 12. why it's immortal!".
i guess what i'm trying to say is some moments transcend sport and to see Kristi lay it on the line and make the jump of the competition when she had no chance of winning made me proud to be a Canadian.

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