Bright's mother challenges Putin

Torah Bright's mother has a succinct message for Russian President Vladimir Putin about the controversial half-pipe on which the Olympic champion will attempt to defend her snowboard title.

''Pull it down, Mr Putin, and start again,'' Marion Bright tells Fairfax Media about the maligned half-pipe that has stirred major concerns among competitors. ''Reschedule for the second week if you have to.''

Marion says this from Cooma in southern NSW, where she and her husband Peter will watch Torah compete in the women's half-pipe on Wednesday night (Melbourne time). They had shocked Torah, and her coach and brother Ben, in Vancouver four years ago when they flew to Canada in secret. Torah didn't know they were there until a few minutes after her gold medal run, and she spotted them in the stands.

On that occasion, they wanted to be there after Torah had suffered a series of concussions and falls in the lead-up to the event.

Marion Bright is equally concerned this time, having woken in the middle of Monday night to hear her daughter had crashed heavily during her practice session amid growing anger from competitors about the standard of the half-pipe.

An alternative medicine practitioner, Marion advised her daughter about how to recover from the fall. ''I tell her to make sure I know everything that's going on,'' Marion says. ''I woke up and there was a message telling me that she had hit her head but she had done balance tests and she was OK. It is so embarrassing for the organisers, and disappointing it is like this.''

Torah Bright's life has changed significantly since she claimed gold in Vancouver and shot to national prominence. With that came scrutiny and interest in her private life, including her divorce from fellow snowboarder and Mormon Jake Welch in June 2013.

That followed the death of her Canadian friend Sarah Burke two years ago following an accident during a training session. In the days before these Games, close friends suffered the sadness of the stillborn death of their first child.

''Torah's got a big heart,'' Marion says. ''She uses it wisely and discerningly, but she didn't get married for it not to last. The last four years have been hell for her. As a mother, that has been difficult to watch.''

Bright has displayed to all concerned in Sochi that she is prepared to call it as she sees it. Her outspoken views on the state of the half-pipe and slopestyle courses, as well as bemusement about the IOC not allowing her to have stickers on her board honouring Burke's life, have drawn criticism that she has had too much to say.

The misconception from a broader audience is all winter athletes come from affluent families who have indulged their children in an expensive sport.

Torah's brother and coach, Ben, scoffs at this suggestion.

''We grew up in Cooma,'' he says. ''My father was a sheep farmer. Our family gave Torah and me a life that they couldn't afford. We have run with it for a very long time. We were able to have fun in the mountains, which led to our current situation.''

Financial concerns were the reason her parents were not expected to be in Vancouver.

''They come from a small farming community,'' Ben explains. ''We don't have excess money as a family. Torah's career is aside from our family background. We didn't want them to pay for something they couldn't afford.

''They were in Vancouver, and they were hiding the whole time.''

Could they make a surprise appearance in Russia?

''Maybe they will pop out of that Babushka doll on the slopestyle course,'' Ben jokes.

''As everyone in Russia knows now, with the problems here, it wasn't going to happen that they would appear here. I would give up snowboarding if they were in Russia.''

Says Marion: ''But we will be watching on TV, although I prefer not to watch sometimes. There is nothing worse for a mother than watching your child when you know she could be in danger.''

The story Bright's mother challenges Putin first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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