Torah Bright, the reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, has never been someone to take the easy road. A competitive snowboarder since age 13, Bright dropped out of school to pursue her dream.
Her hard work paid off: Bright made her mark on the snowboarding circuit at age 16 in 2003, when she placed as the runner-up for the World Cup title, and her creative halfpipe runs and versatility on any terrain quickly established her as a fierce competitor on the international circuit. In 2004, she won her first championship at the FIS World Cup in Torino, Italy, and then she racked up more first-place wins at events around the world, including Japan's Nippon Open (2005, 2007, 2008), the 2007 Burton New Zealand Open, and Norway's 2005 Arctic Challenge.
In 2006, Bright made her Olympic debut at age 19 in Turin, placing fifth. She went on to finish in first place at the 2007 Ticket to Ride Women's World Tour and the 2007 X Games in Aspen, among many other titles. Her winning streak culminated in 2010 with a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics. She also won the 2010 ESPY for Best Female Action Sports Athlete and most recently, the Dew Tour women's halfpipe in December 2013.
The Australian athlete is used to standing out, and now in the 2014 Olympics, the 27-year-old will attempt a feat that no athlete has ever done before: competing in three different snowboarding events, the halfpipe, slopestyle, and boardercross. While most people are familiar with the halfpipe, slopestyle is making its debut in this year's Games, and consists of an obstacle course judged on the difficulty of tricks involved. Boardercross is a combination of both events—it's an obstacle course race that involves competing with five other athletes at the same time.
Winter sports have always been a family affair for Bright. Her older sister, Rowena, competed in alpine skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and her older brother Ben has coached her for the last seven years. "As the youngest of five, I was always trying to keep up with my older siblings," Bright says. "It all came full circle when Ben became my coach and helped me become a better snowboarder."
The two focus mainly on training on snow, especially leading up to a competition. "I don't spend a lot of time in the gym. I just do whatever feels good for my body, whether it's yoga or core work," Bright says. "Our sport isn't about brute strength—it's more about finesse and long, lean muscles."
When she hasn't been training or competing on the slopes, Bright has been working on a fashion line with Roxy. She paired up with the brand to design outwear and snowboarding gear, including jackets, bindings, goggles, beanies, and sweaters. And for those rare moments when she's not training or designing jackets? "I love to surf," Bright says. "The beach is my happy place." —Locke Hughes