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Australia’s Bright reigns in superpipe

If the X Games’ women’s superpipe competition was a barometer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, put Australia’s Torah Bright atop the podium.

And place a large order of painkillers for a powerful U.S. contingent, which has been favored to claim at least two medals at the Vancouver Games but took some lumps Friday.

Bright was brilliant and smooth in posting a winning run that included a backside 360, a switch-backside 720, a 540 McTwist, or back-flip, and a Cab 720. Her winning score: 91.33.

Among the top three U.S. riders, only Hannah Teter, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, didn’t have a run end with a wicked spill. She ended up in third place with an 83.00. Hometown favorite Gretchen Bleiler, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, endured a wipeout for the ages after clipping the lip while attempting a 900.

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The defending event champion somersaulted backward down the wall of the 22-foot pipe, slammed her head into its icy bottom and lay motionless for several seconds.

She rose and smiled amid cheers beneath the bright lights of Buttermilk Mountain but could not make a third and final run. Her crash was shown repeatedly on the big screen, unnerving some of the greener competitors.

“We’ve all taken our share of beatings this week,” said Bright, who revealed she had suffered a shoulder injury during practice earlier in the day. “But that’s just because everybody wants to ride their best and to push the sport.”

Kelly Clark, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist, had a splendid first run (88.33), which would hold for second. But she face-planted on her second run, and sketched on her third, leaving Bright, the last competitor, with her second X Games superpipe gold in three years.

Clark arrived in the press tent with a swollen black eye. “You should see the other guy,” she quipped.

Three’s a charm for Burke

Canada’s Sarah Burke led the effort to persuade X Games officials to cough up equal pay for female skiers this year, then cashed in with a dramatic triumph in ski superpipe.

Burke’s prize: $30,000, which is $10,000 more than she earned for the same effort last year.

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“We all agree that we do this because it’s fun,” said a beaming Burke, who now has three golds and two silvers in the five years the event has been held. “But equal pay is amazing for female athletes in any sport; not just us.”

The Roxy team rider from Canada trailed through two runs, but for her finale she launched a stellar routine: a 900 to a huge straight air, followed by 540 to a right-side 540, and a 720.

Final scores: Burke, 93.33; Jen Hudak, 92.66; Jess Cumming, 84.00. Burke also was instrumental in getting ski slopestyle into the X Games. It will debut today.

Last, but not least

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Levi LaVallee, the Minnesota snowmobile freestyle rider who had athletes, fans and X Games officials on edge heading into the snowmobile “Next Trick” competition, survived his double-back-flip attempt but was unseated upon landing and settled for second place.

Dane Ferguson of Anchorage won with a trick he calls a “Twist-off” and dedicated the victory to a close friend, who died in an avalanche.

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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