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Built Ford Tough

2002 Gorge Games offers biggest prize purse ever

The world's largest adventure sports and lifestyle festival, the Ford Gorge Games, returns to the Columbia River Gorge, July 13-21.

Competitors will test their skills against each other, nature and themselves in eight sports: Adventure Racing, Climbing, Kayaking, 24-Hour Mountain Bike Racing, Kiteboarding, Outrigger Canoeing, Windsurfing and Trail Running.

The Ford Gorge Games draws more than 40,000 spectators annually and brings over 1,500 athletes from all over the world.

This year the prize money has increased to $200,000, the largest in the event's six-year history. And, for the first time, first-place prize purses are equal for both male and female competitors.

Event preview

Blowout:

The Ford Gorge Games kicks off July 13 with the traditional Blowout competition.

The unique race tests windsurfers' and kiteboarders' ability in high winds and the giant swells of the Columbia River Gorge for over 17 miles downriver.

In a true survival-of-the-fittest competition, roughly half of the competitors will not make it to the finish line.

More than 100 participants are expected including last year's women's division kiteboarding winner, Renee Hanks, who hopes to defend her title.

Who to Watch:

Renee Hanks, Corey Roesler (kiteboarding); Dale Cook, Susie Richards (windsurfing).

Prize Purse:

$2,000 total.

Trail Running:

The Nike ACG Trail Run consists of a 10K and half-marathon in the Hood River mountains, offering breathtaking views of the area, including Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

Over 400 weekend warriors are expected to participate across winding trails such as the Air Cinder Cone and Air Wallowa, named after the Nike ACG Oregon Series.

Windsurfing:

The Ford Gorge Games freestyle windsurfing competition will take place at the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery on the first windy day between July 15 and 21.

It will feature 32 men and eight women in a double-elimination tournament, and eight masters and eight juniors in single-elimination heats.

Despite the legendary consistent winds that have made the Columbia River Gorge a mecca for windurfers and kiters since the '70s, Gorge Games has been deprived of a big wind for two consecutive years. Organizers are hope for a change this summer.

Who to Watch:

Web Pedrick, Nathan Mershon, Jocelyn Hrkach, Jennifer Henderson.

Prize Purse:

$20,000 total.

Kiteboarding:

Born out of windsurfers' desire for bigger air, this sport combines wakeboarding, kite flying and windsurfing.

Started by thrill-seekers who attached a kite to a wakeboard, the sport of kiteboarding has spread rapidly, challenging windsurfing in the same manner snowboarding challenged skiing in the 1990s.

This event will take place on first wind appropriate day between July 15 and 21. The kiters will be judged on overall impression, determined by variety, diversity, technical merit and difficulty.

A field of 32 men and 16 women will advance to the finals, where they will go head to head to determine the 2002 champion.

Who to Watch:

Adam Koch, Julien Sudrat, Martin Vari, Julie Prochaska, Cindy Mosey.

Prize Purse:

$20,000 total.

Kayaking:

The Ford Gorge Games present two cutting-edge disciplines of whitewater kayaking: head-to-head and extreme.

Head-to-head kayaking, featuring groups of four descending all at once and battling for position among thrashing paddles, will take place in the Class IV rapids of the White Salmon River on July 17.

The extreme kayaking competition takes place July 19 over the Class V rapids of the White Salmon River and includes the awesome 30-foot drop over Big Brother Falls.

Who to Watch:

Steve Fisher, Tao Berman, Kelly Liles, Brooke Winger.

Prize Purse:

$40,000 total ($30,000 extreme and $10,000 head-to-head).

Climbing:

A brand-new, state-of-the-art climbing wall will grace the Adventure Village and attract some of the world's best climbers July 19-21, including Chris Sharma, arguably the world's best climber on artificial and real rock surface.

Climbers will rotate on three different routes on the wall, all vying for one of the largest purses in the sport.

Who to Watch:

Tori Allen, Lauren Lee, Timy Fairfield, Chris Sharma.

Prize Purse:

$20,000 total.

Adventure Race:

Adventure racing takes many of the disciplines in the Ford Gorge Games and combines them to make an epic adventure challenge encompassing nearly 100 miles, from the glaciers of Mt. Hood to the Columbia River.

The race, the second stop of the BALANCE Bar 24-Hour Adventure Series, features teams of three competing in mountaineering, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, ropes and navigation, all the while working together as a team.

Who to Watch:

Team Eco-Internet, Team Earthlink, Team SoBe/Golite, Team BALANCE Bar.

Prize Purse:

$80,000 total.

Outrigger Canoeing:

With deep roots in Hawaiian culture, outrigger canoeing is a sight to behold at the Ford Gorge Games.

More than 500 participants will gather on the banks of the Columbia River for two days of racing solo, and in two- and six-person teams.

Who to Watch:

Team Scatterchicks, Kaiā€™opua Canoe Club, Mike Judd.

Prize Purse:

$6,000 total.

24-Hour Mountain Bike Race:

The 2002 Ford Gorge Games 24-Hour Mountain Bike race offers competitors a variety of divisions to compete in: Solo -- men and women; 4-Person -- men, women and co-ed (2 Women/2 Men); 5-Person (at least one Woman); and Fiesta Team, 6-10 people.

Competitors will try and rack up the most laps around the nine-mile Whoop-Dee trail.

The team or solo rider completing the most laps in a 24-hour period will be crowned the winner. The race begins July 20 and concludes July 21.

Who to Watch:

Tinker Juarez, Cristina Begy.

Prize Purse:

$12,000 total.

In addition to the world class competitions, the Ford Gorge Games also features a five-day interactive spectator festival, hosted in the Adventure Village, presented by Ford.

The Village will house films, educational clinics, and exhibitions for the entire family. The Ford Gorge Games will air on NBC Sports for two consecutive Sundays, September 1 and 8, and on Outdoor Life Network (OLN), the event's new cable partner.

For more information visit the Ford Gorge Games website at www.gorgegames.com or call 1-866-GORGE-01.

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