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The Queen Of Extreme - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 20 August , 2012

SUSAN O'NEILL, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Hello. I'm Susan O'Neill, Olympic gold medallist in the pool.
Tonight's program is about another Olympic champion. Snowboarder Torah Bright has lived in the US
since she was 15 years old. Her speciality is the half pipe, a Winter Olympic sport with a huge
international following. Despite flirting with danger most of her life, events earlier this year
forced Torah Bright to reconsider her career. This is her story.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: The half pipe is really dangerous. I mean the walls are almost vertical and
it's rock hard ice.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: If you fall and you land with your back, your butt, your
head, it is going to hurt like you're falling on concrete. Jump out of a third storey building and
just try to land on your feet; and that is a daily hazard for these guys when they ride half pipe.

TORAH BRIGHT: I worry now. There's been certain things that have happened in this past winter that
you really bring yourself back and just go what is important? Is this all you want out of life you
know? You know, are you OK to die doing this? You have those moments where you've really got to
think about why you do it.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: Torah, you know she's such a nice person and she rides
like a bad ass. She's this beautiful young girl who is just all about clean living and lifestyle,
but when she gets in the half pipe, she is a beast and like, 'Wooh, wow.' I say to Australians to
educate themselves on Torah because she is the best women's half pipe rider on the planet.

TORAH BRIGHT: Anyone who achieves something never does it on their own you know, and in my case
it's, it hasn't been a national team or some government body who's, you know, helped me through it.
It's been my family. It wouldn't have been possible without them, no way. There are five siblings
and I am number four. We grew up in a town called Cooma, it's about an hour from our snowfields in
New South Wales. And we were two years old and put in skis and sent down a hill. We alpine skied,
we cross country skied and later on we found snowboarding. I remember my first day snowboarding
very well. I was probably about 11 years old. I saw this mountain totally differently. You know, I
saw all the little nooks and crannies and wanted to jump off of them and learn tricks, and so that
was the exciting part for me.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: She was just good at it and it just kind of fell into place. And I think
when you have talent like she did and work ethic then obviously your achievements are limitless.

PETER BRIGHT, FATHER: Like the only way she was going to succeed was to go and live overseas. There
was no possible way she could do it from here. Yeah we just worked it out that if she didn't do it,
she may as well give up.

TORAH BRIGHT: I started getting the US and international sides of my sponsors who wanted to take me
on and it was quite lucrative contracts too. And you know at 15, 16-year-old girl faced with this,
it was like cool, you know. But then it came to the question, it was like 'well she can't just live
away from home.'

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: She actually didn't like being away from the family. So we had a family
conference more or less and Peter and I decided that I was to go overseas for the northern winters.
But we did that because we believe in magnifying talents for a pur- not for winning things, but
because they've been given talents for a purpose. And I guess it was a definite principle of our
faith.

TORAH BRIGHT: I was born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so Mormon's the
nickname because we have the Book of Mormon. We are a Christian religion but we have a a thing
called the Word of Wisdom. You should not drink tea, coffee, alcohol, drugs, no sex before
marriage. You know It's a moral code.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: We were based in Salt Lake City which suited us for religious purposes. And
they have the most beautiful mountains half an hour from the city.

TORAH BRIGHT: The main short term goal for me right now it to, is to work on tricks so I can meet
the qualification criteria for the Olympics. The year before the Turin Olympics in 2006 my brother
Ben decided that he could really help me.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: Ben had become such a very good snowboarder himself. He was sponsored by an
Australian company. And he thought 'oh my gosh, if Torah would have the right coaching, she could
be at the top of the world.' And he then gave up his career and he started coaching her.

TORAH BRIGHT: He made me realise that I didn't have to snowboard like a female. He's he is just
'like you have the ability on your snowboard, I'm going to - I'm going to teach you just what you
can do.' And at the Olympics we were we were both a little disappointed because the judges didn't
quite understand what I was doing. I was riding both of the walls spinning all four ways, and you
know for females then they were spinning two ways.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: Judges for some reason, at that event, didn't think she
had it. And I remember there being a lot of controversy after that. But in the purist eyes, Torah
won that event.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: I was so glad when Torah met Jake, because it's a lonely life really. You
seem to be racing everywhere. She's got a lot of commitments with her sponsoring companies. Lots of
international media work. But Torah would say oh gosh, I just wish I could stay at home for a
while.

TORAH BRIGHT: I didn't meet Jake until I was 20. At 15 people had started trying, you know, to get
us to meet. And I had no interest at all because he was a snowboarder (laughs).

JAKE WELCH, HUSBAND: Friends always say 'no, you guys should hook up and you know and just hang
out, you guys, you know, both have kind of the same religious beliefs, you know you're a lot alike,
you guys seem perfect.' Years down the road we ran into each other. It just clicked.

TORAH BRIGHT: I remember looking over at him and going 'I want to know him better. Um and that was
it (laughs).'

JAKE WELCH, HUSBAND: She's just like a joy to be around. What you see is what you get with Torah.
And she's exactly that, even behind closed doors, you know, with just me and her she's the exact
same way. So it's really cool. I do kind of the complete opposite of what Torah does. Torah chases
the contests and I kind of chase wherever the snow's the best. The company that I ride for every
year, they kind of make a video. So I've been doing that for 10 years.

TORAH BRIGHT: Yeah, I do worry about Jake. He's out in the middle of nowhere, there could have been
an avalanche. But, yeah, Jake he's very, very good at what he does.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: Torah and I are the only two who continue to live the Latter Day Saint
faith. The other kids decided they didn't want to live that way and that's the only difference I
think.

ABI BRIGHT, SISTER: I guess as you come of age and start realising your own things I just didn't
want to be there. Mum was really good with it. I think she realised that, with my two other
brothers as well that haven't continued in the faith, we're pretty strong people and if you try to
preach to us we'll just ram it straight back in your face.

TORAH BRIGHT: I guess the way I live my life and the way the snowboarding scene is it's quite
contradictory, because the snowboarders are known for partying. But I just stuck to what I wanted
to do and I never gave in. I think I did have a cup of tea when I was younger (laughs). I, my
friend offered it to me and I was like 'oh this is yum, what's this?' (laughs) But yeah never drank
coffee, never drank alcohol. I feel like Jake had a rougher time being a male in the industry and
of the same faith and beliefs. We're not the coolest kids on the block (laughs) but we have fun.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: After the Torino Olympics she and Ben got stuck in for the next four years.
She just blitzed most things actually. Three World Championships, I think it's three US Opens, two
X Games.

BEN BRIGHT, BROTHER (archive footage): She's hitting a stage in her snowboarding where she's never
been as refined, she's never been as professional, on the snow and off the snow.

TORAH BRIGHT: I was riding really well and then my brother decided that I could do a double
crippler. And a double crippler is kind of like a barrel roll, but instead of doing one I would be
doing two. One day, then he's like, 'OK, you're ready.' I'm like, 'OK, OK. Like, put full faith
into him that I had this ability in me to do this. And I go in and I do the double crippler, and
cannot believe it that I actually made the spin round and made it back into transition. That was
like a huge breakthrough. I was the first female to attempt it. And I went to do another one and I
caught by chin on the coping of the pipe and just my teeth came together, they broke and chipped
and I was bleeding. And I actually haven't done a double since. So that was the beginning of, I
don't know, my unfortunate struggle (laughs) towards the Vancouver games.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: Three weeks before those Vancouver Olympics she had a very, very bad
concussion. And they were dragging her off the snow and her head was lolling back.

PETER BRIGHT, FATHER: Ben rang me and he said 'Dad', he said 'I don't think we're going to - it's
pointless us going' he said 'the way things are at the moment. I think we're just about a write
off.'

TORAH BRIGHT: I'd never felt like this before. I was, you know, sitting in a dark room because I
wasn't allowed anything to stimulate my brain, I wasn't allowed to read, I wasn't allowed to watch
TV. You know I had to be quite mellow and just relax and let my brain recover.

DR CRAIG BUHLER, CHIROPRACTOR: She was quite unstable. She couldn't do a one legged squat without
falling over. So we started therapy, where we insert a small balloon about the size of your little
finger into the nasal passages and inflate that. It resets that cranial mechanism and within a week
Torah was able to do a one legged squat with her eyes closed and I was - I was shocked. I mean I
didn't expect it to be that fast, but all the indicators were back to normal. Leading up to the
Olympics she sustained two more concussions. And so I treated her up to the day of her competition.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: The doctors from the Australian Olympic team did clear her to compete but
we were still worried, of course.

(Footage from announcement of Australian flag bearer at Vancouver)

ANNOUNCER: The 2010 Australian flag bearer at these Vancouver Games, is Torah Bright.

(Applause and cheers)

TORAH BRIGHT: Coming into the Games in Vancouver I was - I guess I was very keen for my parents not
to come. You know I'd had all of this injury. And I was quite intense with my parents, just kind of
begging them please don't come.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: And we thought well, we're not going to put her any pressure on her: it's
OK, Tor, we won't come. So...but we had planned to come.

PETER BRIGHT, FATHER: On the day of the competition we were up in the grandstand and every time she
come up to the family we'd have to hide under our parkas.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: Torah comes down and puts down this spectacular run in
the qualifier. And I start to go off in the live broadcast about 'Oh my gosh, Torah Bright, the
most technical rider in female history.' And I remember hearing in my ear from production at NBC
like 'Tone it down. Tone it down, she's not an American, tone it down.' And I have to like kind of
dial it back a little bit. Torah comes down her first run of the finals ..crashes! Just, I mean,
like really takes a beating in the pipe and we're just like 'Oooh, no!'

JAKE WELCH, HUSBAND: And then that kind of got my heart pumping and ah definitely everyone in my
family, her family was all there and we're all just white knuckled and... (laughs)

PETER BRIGHT, FATHER: Even though she crashed and she was at the bottom of the half pipe she had
this big grin on her face. And I thought she's right, she's OK, she knows what she's about.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: So she's got one more shot at it. So it's a best run
counts in the finals.

TORAH BRIGHT: I see my brother and his eyes are just wide. And I'm like, go to him 'don't worry
Benny, it's OK' and I give him a hug. Gave him a fist and dropped in and that was it. I didn't
really care whether I won or not. I just wanted to make it through safely.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: She hits the first three hits and we're like 'Oh my gosh,
just, Torah, just get out of there.' And I remember just saying on the broadcast, like, 'All she
needs to do is survive the next two hits and we could see a gold medallist.'

TORAH BRIGHT: And I remember landing my last trick and seeing the green finish line and I was like
'oh my gosh!' My hands just went to my knees and it was utter relief that I had landed the run I
wanted to do. And the score comes through and I've won. I'm pretty elated. Benny comes over and he
goes 'look who's up there'. And it was mum and dad and I couldn't control myself, I just let it all
go and just, I'm even getting a tear now. It was the most amazing thing that I had come through all
of that and been able to perform to my best on the day that counted.

PETER BRIGHT, FATHER: It was a great feeling of satisfaction that she would finally get recognition
back home, because basically the sporting world in Australia doesn't know much about what she's
been doing.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: Post the Vancouver Olympics it was a whirlwind for her, and she still had
the major head injury. It was suggested to her that she take some time off competition sport and of
course she had her wedding to organise.

TORAH BRIGHT: Jake and I were married in the Salt Lake City Temple. The family came from Australia.

ABI BRIGHT, SISTER: I wasn't actually allowed in the temple for the wedding, just 'cause the
religion thing. She walked out and I could have cried I think, she looked beautiful in her little
dress. And her and Jake walked out holding hands to a crowd of people and it was a really special
day.

TORAH BRIGHT: Just this, this winter gone I had really got back to a great place. I was, I was fit
ready to really give it a good go again. Benny and I we were just talking and he said I can't do
this anymore. You know he had given so much to me and my goals for the Olympics that, you know, he
kind of needed to figure out what he wanted to do and what, what made him tick. So now he's not my
coach.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: They split their partnership because Ben just needed to do something
different. He didn't ever plan to be a coach. He needed a change and needs to get going with all
his plans.

ABI BRIGHT, SISTER: It's pretty hard I guess when you're living, coaching with siblings. They still
love each other, there's nothing wrong in that department ,just couldn't work together any more.

TORAH BRIGHT: It was quite an emotional and hard time for both of us. We'd been partners through
this whole thing for so many years it was such a shock. OK like how am I going to go on? Who am I
going to be coached by? Do I need a coach? Then I got an email from my friend, Sarah Burke a free
style skier ,who's also my Roxy team mate, and she was coming into town for a camp with one of her
sponsors. When she arrived into town I was kind of filling her in on the situation and she's like
oh don't worry, come and train with her coach. So I was like sweet.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: She's the world's famous freestyle skier, so they had lots of years of
competition and media work together.

TORAH BRIGHT: So we were just riding the pipe, just, you know, days as normal when you're up on the
hill training. And one day while I was off at lunch and changing out my bindings, we'd come back
and realised that Sarah wasn't around. And then we hear there was an accident in the pipe and then
we see someone going down to the ski patrol and we just - something hit me and I was like it's,
it's not OK. And so we just run down there and that was (crying) sorry

AMERICAN REPORTER: Champion free style skier Sarah Burke. She is in a critical condition right now
after an accident on a training run left her with a traumatic brain injury.

TORAH BRIGHT: So Sarah had taken a fall and hit her head and on impact she had torn her vertebral
artery. We all sat in the hospital for, I think it was 10 days, and just every day waiting for some
news.

MARION BRIGHT, MOTHER: After brain surgery and um whatever, they took her respirator off, and that
was very, very hard for Torah (Crying).

TORAH BRIGHT: It was a very rough start to the winter and shattered a lot of us. And for me having
head injuries myself, it was a hard one, an emotional time to, I don't know, just to try and work
through it and do I want to do this? Is it worth it? And the way I'd answer to it was 'no, it's
not' because snowboarding isn't everything. I have a husband, I want to have a family one day and
so, no, it's not worth it.

ROWENA HYLDAHL, SISTER: I wasn't certain if she would keep going with the snowboarding. She often
talks to me that she envies my life, you know, with my two little boys, stay at home mum.

JAKE WELCH, HUSBAND: I would be completely fine if she didn't snowboard another day, you know, just
for her safety. She doesn't have anything more to prove to anyone, but she has that drive inside
where she still wants to kind of be that person.

TORAH BRIGHT: It took me till the end of this winter pretty much to come out of it feeling OK and,
you know, that I'm not going to lose my life doing it kind of thing. I guess felt like I had been
given these talents for a reason So I have decided to continue on to the Russia Games in 2014,
after all of that.

TODD RICHARDS, NBC SNOWBOARD COMMENTATOR: I think that it'll be a little more difficult for Torah
to defend her gold medal this time around. Because there's some girls that have been learning some
tricks. There's, there are girls that can do the double crippler now. But I know if Torah sets her
mind to it, you know, she will be a force to be reckoned with for sure.

TORAH BRIGHT (at Order of Australia awards): We're here for the Order of Australia medal awards
which I'm receiving so I've got my husband and family. So it's pretty exciting.

ORDER OF AUSTRALIA MEDAL PRESENTER: Awarded the medal in the general division is Torah Bright for
service to sport.

QUENTIN BRYCE, GOVERNOR-GENERAL: Ms Bright I'm thrilled to present you with this award and I can't
tell you how impressed my granddaughters will be.

TORAH BRIGHT: My life is in Salt Lake City and has been for you know the past 10 years. You know
and people do ask me will you ride for America? But I think when it comes down to it, if I really
wanted to do it I could do it, but I'm Australian (laughs) I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it to
mum and dad. I would be - I feel like I'd be disowned. I'm like 'no-one would want to talk to dad
at the gas station and ask how I'm going, like, (laughs) if I represent America.' No, I will
represent Australia. I am still that little girl from Cooma through and through.

END CAPTIONS:

Ben Bright declined an interview for this program.

Rowena Hyldahl skied for Australia in the 2002 Olympics. She now lives near Torah in Salt Lake
City.

Abi Bright retired from professional snowboarding and now lives in Australia.