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The 2002 Gorge Games come to a close

Stakes were higher this year than ever before when over 1,500 athletes and 40,000 spectators gathered July 13-21 for the Ford Gorge Games.

The prize money, which in the past has been limited to $100,000 divided among the winners of eight outdoor/adventure sports, was doubled. The victors of both the men’s and women’s contests also received equal amounts of prize money for the first time in Gorge Games history.

The annual games offer a unique opportunity for sports enthusiasts to compete in several diverse categories. The scenic 80 mile long Columbia River Gorge, with its typically high winds and swells, is the perfect place to put their abilities to the test.

Participants this year were an undeniably global group. It was not unusual to find athletes from New Zealand, France and Spain mingling with the native Oregon and Washington competitors.

Here is a rundown of the winners in each of the main categories:

Day 1: The Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Blowout events are the traditional kick-start of the Gorge Games. Over 17 miles of the Columbia River awaited to capsize the competitors, half of whom usually do not make it across the finish line. Renee Hanks and Chris Gilbert took home first place prizes in the kiteboarding competitions. Bruce Peterson and Monique Anderson were the fastest windsurfers.

Day 2: The 10K and half marathon trail runs in the foothills surrounding Hood River usually draw hundreds of competitors, and this year was no exception. Christy Paul and Shawn B. took first place overall in the women’s and men’s 10k respectively. Jenny Thorpe took first in the women’s half marathon and Corey Folske of Beaverton took first in the men’s half marathon.

Day 3: The freestyle windsurfing competition was held at the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery and featured 32 men and eight women. Mitch Gingrich and Nori Hubbs won first place prizes.

Day 4: The relatively new sport of kiteboarding, a combination of wakeboarding, windsurfing and kite flying, has steadily been growing in popularity. The Gorge Game winners were Cindy Mosey of Auckland, New Zealand and Mark Doyle of White Salmon, Ore.

Day 5: Head-to-head kayaking competitions were held in the Class V rapids of the White Salmon River. Head-to-head Kayaking features four paddlers against each other in high competition for position in the rough rapids. South African Steve Fisher and North Carolinian Shannon Carroll came away with the top prizes. Both, Fisher and Carroll, beat out last year’s champions to take first place.

Day 6: The Extreme Kayaking competition also took place on the White Salmon River. The Class V rapids, which include a 30 foot drop over Big Brother Falls, are what qualify this competition as “extreme.” Nicola Kelly and Steve Fisher took home first place prizes in the extreme race.

Day 7: The $20,000 Gorge Games climbing competition purse is one of the largest found in that sport. Final results were unavailable.

Day 8: The Adventure Race is arguably one of the most grueling found in the games. Teams of three traveled 82 miles over land and water by mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and mountaineering., comprised of Neil Jones, Nathan Fa’avae and Kristina Strode-Penny walked away with the $50,000 prize purse.

Day 9: Outrigger canoeing has proven to be one of the game’s most popular competitions. Over 500 competitors lined the banks of the Columbia River this year to take part. Team Offshore Hawaii won the six-man race, while Kai O Pua Canoe Club won the open women’s event.

Day 10: The 24-hour Mountain Bike race ended on the final day of competition. The team or solo rider who is able to complete the most laps in the allotted time goes home with a cut of the $12,000 prize purse. Final results were unavailable.

The 2002 Ford Gorge Games will be broadcast by NBC Sports on Sept. 1 and 8.