Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner win gold for U.S. in mixed snowboard cross
In four Olympics, Nick Baumgartner was missing just one thing.“I’ll beat ‘em next time,” Baumgartner joked.
“One of these medals,” he said after a 10th-place finish in men’s snowboard cross on Thursday.
Two days later, he finally got it.
The 40-year-old earned his first Olympic medal Saturday, taking gold with Lindsey Jacobellis in the Olympic debut of mixed team snowboard cross at Genting Snow Park. Racing against riders half his age, Baumgartner became the oldest snowboard medalist at the Olympics. Michela Moioli, 26, and 32-year-old Omar Visintin of Italy finished second while Canada’s Eliot Grondin and Meryeta O’Dine, 20 and 24 years old, respectively, took bronze after O’Dine recovered from a collision.
Recapping the news, results and highlights from The Times’ team of reporters who covered the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.
Sitting next to Jacobellis, a 36-year-old who three days prior won her first Olympic medal, the pair of ‘80s kids laughed when they looked at the start list that showed every competitor’s birth year. Only one other racer was born in the 1980s.
“For me, it’s like you get hungrier, you want it more, because you know there’s an expiration date and it’s coming,” Baumgartner said of aging in the sport. “I put in my sacrifices, I put in more work than I ever have … As you get older, it’s tough to watch the young kids take over and try to put you out of the sport so that hunger, it’s strong.”
Acknowledging he was running out of chances to compete at a high level, Baumgartner was overcome with emotion after a disappointing quarterfinal elimination in the individual event on Thursday. He praised the support he had from his friends and family in Iron River, Mich., but said through tears that he felt like he let them down.
On Saturday, tears of a different nature ran down his face when he watched Jacobellis cross the finish line.
The five-time Olympian took a 0.04-second head start from Baumgartner in the relay race-type event and turned it into a comfortable 0.2-second victory. After crossing the finish line first among the men, Baumgartner pumped his fist and shouted toward the start line, “Let’s go Linds!”
Jacobellis fell behind out of the gate early but rallied from third place and took the lead by passing Moioli on the final turn. Only three days after winning her first gold medal that took her 16 years to get, Jacobellis added a second when she charged through the finish fine, where Baumgartner rushed to greet her and snap her out of her boots.
“I can’t tell you how much pressure is off you when you know you’ve got someone like Lindsey in the gate after you,” Baumgartner said. “When you can ride like that and you don’t have to worry about stuff, you see your best come out. … I knew if I messed up she could cover for me, but I wanted to prove to everyone what I wanted to prove two days ago - and I did that today.”
The unique team format made its Olympic debut Thursday as one of seven new events in the Beijing Games. It was a good fit for the Americans who pride themselves on cheering louder for their teammates than any other team.
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Jacobellis and Baumgartner credited teammates Jake Vedder and Faye Gulini, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals, for lending strategic support on how to attack the course.
The venue provided an extra challenge Saturday with snowy weather that slowed down the course. That’s where Jacobellis and Baumgartner’s experience helped propell them to gold.
While her teammates may make fun of Jacobellis for turning in early and needing 10 hours of sleep a night, it’s the experience she’s earned over two decades on the professional tour that allows her to conquer tricky courses like the one in Genting Snow Park.
“It’s so hard to replicate the same scenario because there’s so many uncontrolled variables that it really helps to have the years behind you,” Jacobellis said. “So you can make the best execution and calls that you need to do in that moment because you have mere seconds, if less to make your decision.”
Even before adding a golden Olympic flourish to her career, Jacobellis was the sport’s most decorated athlete with 31 World Cup wins and 10 X Games championships. Baumgartner was a three-time world championship medalist, including gold in the team event in 2017, but had yet to finish on the podium at the Olympics. His closest finish was fourth in Pyeongchang.
As Jacobellis made the final jump and bombed down the final straight away to clinch the victory, Baumgartner’s competitors were quick to congratulate him. He became the oldest U.S. gold medalist at the Winter Olympics since 1948 when Francis Tyler won gold in the four-man bobsled at 43.
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