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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 01:28 GMT

Lift-off for boarding

BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson reports from Salt Lake City on the strides made in women's snowboarding.

Snowboarding is the only snow sport at the Winter Olympics that does not differentiate between men and women.

In the half-pipe, the women riders use exactly the same equipment, perform on the same track and attempt similar tricks to their male counterparts.

It is a very physical sport and Britain's Lesley McKenna led the way in improving the training techniques.

Her coach John Clark, told BBC Sport Online: "Lesley was one of the first to incorporate a proper training schedule in the gym.

"It is not a big team but we got a lot of mileage out of being here"
McKenna's coach John Clark

"It wasn't long before the other girls started doing the same.

"At the beginning, keeping fit was a very relaxed affair but as the sport has become more professional so has the attitudes.

"People don't realise how fit you need to be to compete at the highest level.

"Riders have to have the fitness of an athlete, be prepared to take the knocks of a rugby player while performing like a ballerina."

Britain has only had a World Cup snowboard team for five years so Clark said he could not be too downhearted by McKenna's poor performance in the Olympic half-pipe at Salt Lake City, where she finished 17th.

Clark said: "It is not a big team but we got a lot of mileage out of being here. We gained valuable experience and in four years time we hope to have two snowboarders in the Olympics."

McKenna is having a short break before resuming her World Cup circuit in March.

There are four World Cup events left, including the season's finale in Tandadalen, Sweden.

Clark added: "Lesley's season has not ended because the Olympics have ended. She is looking forward to the World Cups."

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