Zhangjiakou, China — Lindsey Jacobellis captured the United States’ first gold medal ofon Wednesday, riding hard to the line in her snowboardcross final a full 16 years after showboating near the finish cost her the title.
The 36-year-old racer was competing in her fifth Olympics and captured the first U.S. win of what has been an otherwise dismal Games for the red, white and blue.
The victory came after America’s top racer, skierand failed to finish the first run of the slalom, making her 0-for-2 in Beijing.
Up until Wednesday, Jacobellis was best known for taking a massive lead into the final jump at the 2006 Turin Games but pulling on her board in a showboat move as she road over the crest, then falling and settling for silver.
This time, she road hard all the way to the line, beating Chloe Trespeuch of France, then covering her heart with her hands as she slowed.
At the post-race ceremony, she received one of the treasured Bing Dwen Dwen stuffed animals, lifted it over her head and just stood there and beamed. Meryeta Odine of Canada won the bronze.
“They can keep talking about it all they want,” Jacobellis said. “Because it really shaped me into the individual that I am. It kept me hungry and really kept me fighting in this sport.”
“That (2006) is a very famous story in snowboardcross and to see her come home with the gold — it’s honestly really cool to see,” O’Dine said, according to the Reuters news service.
That the first U.S. gold would come from Jacobellis and not Shriffin or someone else in the action park – say slopestylers Jamie Anderson or Red Gerard – was surprising. That Jacobellis would put herself in the win column after all these years wasn’t a shock at all.
Long after the embarrassment and dismay of her “Lindsey Leap” in 2006, Jacobellis kept on riding, and winning. Since 2007, she’s amassed 45 World Cup podiums. Twenty-three of them have been golds, and she had two third-place finishes coming into the Games.
“This feels incredible because the level that all the women are riding at today is so much higher than it was 16 years ago,” Jacobellis said.
But that silver-medal Olympic performance has followed her, and she’s largely chosen to stay out of the spotlight.
At a media opportunity with all the snowboardcross riders last week, Jacobellis stayed back to concentrate on racing, her coach said.
And while Shaun White and Chloe Kim can’t take two steps around this snowboard park without getting noticed, Jacobellis walked alone with a member of the U.S. staff a few hours before her final. Nobody even noticed.
“It doesn’t define you,” she said when asked what message she’d send to younger racers about mistakes of the past. “Especially if you’ve made it to this stage, you’re a winner. And look at what you’ve learned from the experience, and take that with you later in life.”