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Snowboarding Monday, 14 January, 2002, 11:24 GMT
Half-pipe heaven
McKenna in action in a parallel giant slalom but half-pipe is her favoured discipline
McKenna in action in a parallel giant slalom
BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson talks to Britain's top snowboarders.

Lesley McKenna and Melanie Leando are Britain's leading snowboarders and both have the ability and confidence to win an Olympic medal.

But only one of them will be competing at Salt Lake City in February.

Britain has secured a single berth in the half-pipe discipline, and McKenna has been selected.

Lesley McKenna
Age: 27
Lives: Aviemore/ Bourg St Maurice, France
Years snowboarding: Five
Best result: Second, twice
Ranked third in the world
Current British half-pipe champion

"It is a shame that both of us can't compete at the Olympics," McKenna reflected.

It was McKenna and Leando who forced the British Ski and Snowboard Federation into creating a team which could compete at World Cup level.

And just five years on, both women are among the world's top snowboarders.

They have been singled out for UK Sport World Class Performance funding and have also received National Lottery money.

The lottery has a committed investment in the snowboard programme until 2002.

McKenna, who grew up on the slopes of Aviemore, had a brilliant World Cup season last year.

She finished second in two races and was third in the overall half-pipe standings.

Half-pipe is a judged sport, so you need a massive bit of luck to get in the top three

McKenna on the Winter Olympics

This season she is aiming to win World Cup races and go for Olympic glory.

So far, she has had three top 10 placings in World Cup events, including a fourth and a fifth.

She said: "I'm definitely going to go for it more.

"It may mean my results are a little more inconsistent but if it means winning some races then it will all be worth it."

But she is being cautious about her chances at the Olympics.

McKenna added: "There are 20 of us at the Olympics, and they're all ahead of me as favourites for the medals.

"If I can come 10th or better I will be over the moon, and if I have a really lucky day I might get in the top five.

"I had two second places last year, and there's only one girl in the world I've never beaten.

"But it's a judged sport, so you need a massive bit of luck to get top three.

"Snowboarding in the Olympics is a lot about putting on a show.

McKenna is third in the world in half-pipe
McKenna is third in the world in half-pipe

"You ride the pipe and just hope everybody has the best run of their lives."

McKenna, who is the cousin of Britain's top slalom skier Alain Baxter, only started snowboarding in 1996.

She had been a talented skier and was the British ladies giant slalom champion in 1994.

But McKenna bored of the ski racing circuit and took up snowboarding as a hobby.

She was a natural and has never looked.

Leando is only just getting back into competing after an injury lay-off.

She twice hit her head and suffered concussion last season.

She said: "At one point, the doctors said if I banged my head again I would have to give up competing.

"It was quite worrying because I kept on getting migraines and my confidence was low.

"But I have been concentrating on my recovery and I am now getting ready to compete again. "

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