Story by: Matthew Piper
In an instant, Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, VT) saw her hopes of gold slip away. The 2006 silver medalist was kicked off course in a banked turn to pave the way for Canada’s Maelle Ricker, who nearly didn’t qualify for finals in Tuesday’s women’s snowboardcross competition.
Jacobellis, winner of silver in Torino, was disqualified, while France’s Deborah Anthonioz took home silver, and Switzerland’s Olivia Nobs got bronze.
“I went into the first bank turn and I was just trying to recover,” said Jacobellis. “But when you’re going that fast into a bank turn, you hit the G’s, and my board just finally caught up, and threw me in a direction through the panels. So it’s just like ‘Whoa!’ Nothing you can do about it now.”
Jacobellis had the early lead in the semifinals and yielded to Ricker. The Canadian took a low line through the banked turn, while Jacobellis rode high until the forces suddenly kicked her down – nearly into Ricker – and through a blue control gate, clearly out of the course.
“Maelle and I were just pretty close, but I don’t think we made contact,” said Jacobellis. “Going off into the first banked turn, I just got a little off balance, and when you’re not completely centered on your board, it’s hard to go 100 percent into a feature.”
It was a bitter disappointment for the athlete who has dominated her sport for so many years.
“I feel OK though,” she said. “Sometimes, you can’t control the things that you want to, and that’s just how it goes in boardercross sometimes. I’ve had a great career in it, and I’ve been really dominant in it. Then sometimes I fall into funks where things like that happen.”
Following a delayed start because of foggy, rainy weather, Jacobellis qualified second fastest and went into the top 16 with U.S. teammate Faye Gulini (Salt Lake City), who got bounced out in 12th in the quarterfinals.
Jacobellis won her quarterfinal heat, as did Ricker, but met the same fate as top qualifier Mellie Francon (Switzerland) in the semis, going off course.
“The conditions were OK,” Jacobellis said. “The visual aspect was a little rough this morning because all of a sudden it would come in and out. Sometimes you could see a jump, and sometimes you couldn’t, despite all the dye that the course workers put down. But they did a great job. It felt pretty smooth when you were riding it by yourself, and you didn’t have a lot going on around you, but then when you throw three other people in the mix, things can get a little crazy.”
The 24-year-old could have moped across the finish, but the two-time World Champion and six-time X Games gold medalist rose to her feet, carved her way down and threw a Truck Driver grab off the final jump to prove that snowboarding’s about enjoying yourself.
“I was just having fun,” she said. “I knew, since everybody was waiting for me to come down, they’d be watching, so I figured I’d have some fun and show them that I still have a deep passion for the sport, and that if you haven’t snowboarded before, maybe you should, because it’s pretty fun.”
Jacobellis said she’s still only 24 years old, and is comfortable with the mark she’s already made on the sport – from winning World Championships to pushing the U.S. men in practice sessions.
“It’s definitely not the end of the world for me. I do so many competitions a year, it’s unfortunate that the rest of the world only sees this race, and then four years ago, so I guess I don’t have a great track record for the general public. I know myself that (there’s) so many things that I’ve accomplished. When people think of boardercross, they think of me as one of the top women athletes, and I feel that’s a great accomplishment.”
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Cypress Mountain, BC – Feb. 16
Gold – Maelle Ricker, Canada
Silver – Deborah Anthonioz, France
Bronze – Olivia Nobs, Switzerland
4. Helene Olafsen, Norway
5. Lindsey Jacobellis, Stratton Mountain, VT
12. Faye Gulini, Salt Lake City, UT
21. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, Girdwood, AK