Winter Olympics: Lindsey Jacobellis’ snowboard cross gold exorcises demons from Turin


Hosts: Beijing, China Dates: February 4-20
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds; live text and highlights on BBC Sport website and mobile app

If ever there was a lesson in never giving up, Lindsey Jacobellis is its epitome.

Showing perseverance at its finest, the American never relented in chasing her Winter Olympic dream, and her fifth Games finally delivered the gold medal she once threw away.

Cast your mind back to Turin in 2006. A young Jacobellis, on her first Olympic outing, was seconds clear of the rest of the field in what was the first snowboard cross final on this stage.

In a split-second decision she has no doubt long wheeled, she chose to showboat with the finish line in her sight. Her youthful confidence de ella backfired, and she hit the deck as she watched Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden steam past her for the golden moment she’d had within her grasp de ella.

Now, 16 years on, and at the age of 36, that gold is finally hers – victory in the Beijing final ensured the ghost was exorcised at long last.

“It finally all came together. All the stars aligned and in this sport, that can be rare,” Jacobellis told BBC Sport.

Perhaps she thought her chance had gone; Wednesday’s victory in the Zhangjiakou mountains marked her first win for her in three years. She missed out on the final at the 2010 and 2014 Games and finished fourth in 2018, the year after her last of five individual World Championship titles.

Her victory means she becomes the oldest snowboarding gold medalist in Olympic history, and the oldest American woman to win a medal of any color at the Winter Olympics.

“I guess five times is the charm and how it needed to be. You never know why,” she said. “I was always still hungry for it, always still loved racing.

“Every morning before a race, it’s still nerve-wracking, still stressful and it’s a blast once you cross the finish line.

“I was just trying to go one heat at a time and just tell myself I just needed to be one or two making it into finals. I already felt I was a winner because I made it to finals – because it’s so challenging now to make Item.”

And so it proved. Likened to BMX racing on snow, the brutal anything-can-happen narrative of snowboard cross was laid bare as, one by one, the favorites bowed out on Wednesday.

First it was Great Britain’s charlotte bankes – the reigning world champion – in the quarter-finals, and then it was 2018 Olympic champion Michela Moioli of Italy in the semis. Suddenly, the path had opened in Jacobellis’ favour.

This time, lesson learned, there was no showing off, and there were no unnecessary tricks in the end. Fully focused, she led from the beginning, keeping her younger charges – France’s Chloe Trespeuch and Canada’s Meryeta Odine, the eventual silver and bronze medallists – comfortably at arm’s length.

Her team-mates, looking on at the Genting Snow Park, went berserk. Jacobellis herself looked to be in sheer disbelief, those demons that had lingered for so long now conquered.

Lindsey Jacobellis
Lindsey Jacobellis takes a moment after winning Olympic gold

“I definitely have put 2006 in the past and have done a lot of soul searching to realize that that moment doesn’t define me as an athlete, as an individual,” Jacobellis told a news conference.

“What I’ve accomplished in the sport is huge and instrumental in how this sport moves forward. I’m really happy that I’ve been shaping this sport for women over the last two decades, that’s a pretty rare thing.

“There are definitely those times when I’ve looked back at my past Olympic experiences where I was just missing out or it just didn’t come together.

“At the end of the day, that’s just our sport, there are so many uncontrollable variables.

“As I’ve got older, I’ve learned to forgive myself of the uncontrollable variables. That helps you heal and move on.”

And as for her lasting message? “Don’t count the old girl out.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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