News Release

Mormon Gold Medallist Competes Again in Sochi

Torah Bright, a gold medallist in the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics, is in Sochi, Russia to compete in all three snowboarding disciplines – halfpipe, slopestyle and snowboard cross. 

It is the first time the Russian Federation will host the winter games, which are taking place until 23rd February.  A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) from Cooma, NSW, Torah, 27, has been competing since her early teens.

Torah Bright was only the fourth Australian to score gold at the Winter Olympics with her women’s snowboard half-pipe win.  In celebration of her success and recognition of her contribution to Australian winter sports, she received the Order of Australia on Australia Day, 26th January 2012.

At the Vancouver games, Torah was chosen to carry the flag for Australia at the opening ceremonies, and qualified for the number one spot for the final of the Women's half-pipe, despite suffering two bad concussions in training.  Crashing out in her first run in the final, she was the first competitor to make a second run. With a successful second run, Torah posted a score of 45.0, which remained the highest score as the rest of the field completed their runs.

Torah has a semi-permanent home in Salt Lake City, Utah, but began her life in Cooma, a small country town in south-eastern NSW, adjacent to the Snowy Mountain ski fields.  Brought up in Cooma’s small Latter-day Saint branch, Torah’s career eventually took her to Utah where her older sister, Rowena, also an Olympic Games competitor, lives with her family.

The intense physical preparation for the Olympics has been complemented by spiritual preparation, too. 

Her mother, Marion Bright, who still lives in Cooma with her husband Peter, said, “I’ve shared scriptures often with Torah but, as she was preparing to go to Sochi, two scriptures I thought would be of help to her were, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,’ (Matthew 5:16) and also ‘Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36).”

Like many prominent sportspeople, Torah is subject to intense media scrutiny. Sometimes the media get it right and, at other times, very wrong.  Hence, Latter-day Saints and others need to read published articles about Torah Bright and other prominent Mormons through a lens of healthy wariness.

According to one well regarded story, just published in The Australian, Torah tells how she has valued the advice she receives from her family: "The way my mum puts it, she's like, 'Well, whatever you'll do, you'll do, but I've taught you what I think are correct principles and you'll govern yourself by them.' And that's exactly how I feel it's worked."

As Torah prepared to enter the 2014 games she received a priesthood blessing of comfort and love from her brother-in-law, Dr Robert Hyldahl, who resides in Provo, Utah and is an assistant professor at Brigham Young University.  Dr Hyldahl is married to Torah's sister, Rowena.

The LDS Church News reports that there are other Olympic competitors who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who will compete in Sochi.  Noelle Pikus-Pace from the United States will race in the Women’s Skeleton. Snowboarders, Jessika Jenson and Erik Fisher, who will compete in the downhill and super G events, are both from Idaho. 

Growing up in Utah country, Steve Nyman will be participating in his third Olympic Games as an alpine skier.  He is a four-time World Cup downhill medalist and a two-time downhill national champion.  Christian Niccum, a luger from Woodinville, Washington will be a third time participant as well.

Mormon Canadian bobsledder, David Bissett, will be competing in his third Olympics.  Eric Neilson, a fellow Canadian, will vie for the men’s skeleton.  Returned missionary, Utahan Chris Fogt and his teammates on the US four-man bobsled team, are expected win a medal in Sochi.  Luger, Kate Hansen, 21, is a BYU student who will also compete with fellow Mormons.  

The Australia Olympic Team website said that more than 2,500 athletes were expected to participate in the Sochi games from 88 countries around the world.  The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France.  12 countries – Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States - have attended every Winter Olympic Games since its inception. 

Australia first competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany and in the early years, Australia's athletes did poorly. Only two athletes placed in the top half of their events before 1976. This lack of success was attributed to the Australian culture, climate and lack of snow, as well as the lack of financial support for the athletes.

Australia won its first medal, a bronze, in 1994 in the men's 5,000 metres short track relay speed skating event.  Zali Steggall gained Australia's first individual medal in 1998, when she won bronze in the slalom event. In 2002, Steven Bradbury won the 1,000 metres short track speed skating and Alisa Camplin won the aerials event, making Australia the only southern hemisphere country to have won a gold medal at a Winter Olympics.

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