Rubber match for Women's Endurance gold
By Steve Bowman
Great Outdoor Games staff
On one side was Sharee Taylor of New Zealand, the 2000 gold medalist in the event, and on the other was Penny Halvorsen of Alma Center, Wisc., the 2001 gold medalist.
If it were indeed the rubber match between the two champions, chalk an extra gold on Taylor's side. But in reality, gold or rubber had nothing to do with the contest.
Taylor bested Halvorsen after a shaky start in the event that requires the lumberjills to race through separate cutting disciplines.
In the first leg of the race, they must saw twice through a 16-inch pine log with a Stihl chainsaw. On the second leg they compete in an underhand chop event, where they women cut through a log they are standing on with an axe. And on the final leg, they run back at the 16-inch log and cut through it with a crosscut saw.
Lumberjacks call it grueling, agonizing work that requires an enormous amount of physical stamina. And from Taylor's perspective, it's nothing short of a miracle that she was there competing in the event, let alone winning the gold.
On the final leg of the contest as she worked the crosscut saw tears began to fall down her face. And as soon as the wood disk was cut from the log, her emotions erupted for a few seconds as she buried her head in Jason Wynyard's shoulder.
"I was just totally overcome," Taylor said.
The reason? Last summer Taylor underwent four separate surgeries that had totally debilitated her.
"I was assured by my doctor that I would never be able to compete in my sports again," Taylor said, still choking with emotion. "To me, my world had come to an end."
For several months she was mostly bedridden and depressed.
It might have stayed that way too. But on Sept. 11, while Taylor laid in bed and watched the day's event unfold, she began to have a change of heart.
"I realized my hurt wasn't nearly as big as so many peoples," Taylor said. "I decided then to change things, to train, to win again.
"For me this is what this win is all about. It's not for the gold. It's for me."
With motivation like that it would be hard to see how Halvorsen even had a chance. But after the opening round with the Stihl chainsaw, it looked as if Halvorsen would run away with the medal.
Both of the competitors finished their cuts at about the same time, but Taylor failed to shut off the engine.
"I pushed the off button, and I thought it was off, but it was still running," she said.
In order to keep from getting a penalty. She had to go back to the saw and turn it off. Meanwhile, Halvorsen got a head start on the underhand chop, while Taylor had to make up ground.
By the time they hit the singlebuck, the two were neck and neck, where Taylor surpassed last year's gold medalist.