Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis Learns a Valuable Lesson | Strangest Moments

The very best athletes know
that a bit of showboating can serve as a warning
to their rivals. It sends a stark message – they can win with gas in the
tank. Sometimes they get away with
it, but sometimes the universe
treats us to a delicious slice
of instant karma. At the Turin Olympic Winter
Games, that karma came in the tiny
town of Bardonecchia, home of the
snowboarding competition. Snowboarding is a relatively
young Winter Olympic sport, arriving on the scene in 1998 – and snowboard cross didn’t make
its debut until 2006. In some ways, the relaxed,
cool image of snowboarding is at odds with
the traditional attitudes associated with elite-level
sport. It’s seen by outsiders as a
sport for creative, expressive
athletes, not hyper-efficient robots. Stars like Lindsey Jacobellis were out to prove that
sport can still be fun, even when the stakes
are at their highest. Well, that was the theory,
anyway. Jacobellis came into
the 2006 Olympic Games as reigning World Champion
of the snowboard cross. The format of snowboard cross
is simple – navigate the course
as quickly as possible. It’s a race to the finish line, with no points on offer for
style – that bit’s important.
No points for style. At just 20 years old,
Jacobellis was clear favourite for the gold medal, and her route to the final
was comfortable. When the big day came around, it seemed like business as
usual. Jacobellis quickly raced out
to a huge lead. Riders ready? Attention. And they’re off at the start. Jacobellis closest to the
camera in the white pinstripes… ..and she’s looking
for an inside line, and she’s got it, and she’s going to come out of
this turn in the lead… and, whoops, there’s a faller – and that looked like the
Canadian Ricker who’s down. And a little bit of
a problem, there, for Maltais, the other
Canadian. Jacobellis with
a comfortable lead right now. Maltais and Frieden –
and Maltais has gone! She’s off the course. Going into the penultimate
jump, she was ahead of Switzerland’s
Tanja Frieden by a huge margin. If she stayed on her board,
the gold medal was hers. What happened next became one of the most infamous
moments in the history of
the Olympic Winter Games. So, just two jumps to go –
and Jacobellis is down! Jacobellis has fallen. It looked like a moment
of indecision, there, and Tanja Frieden from
Switzerland has passed her, and is going to get the gold
medal. What a heartbreak for
Jacobellis. What was she thinking in the
air with just two jumps to go? As she had gone over
the penultimate jump, Jacobellis had attempted
a method grab – a simple move where the rider grabs the heel
side of the board during a rotation. Easy enough – but this was
a strange time to try it. Why even attempt it? It was, in her own words,
to “improve her stability”. Look closely – that method grab
was definitely necessary. For stability. Stability?! It was a baffling decision. Onlookers were shocked. Stand by for a technically
perfect facepalm from US coach Peter Foley. Jacobellis later revealed
to reporters that “Snowboarding is fun –
I was having fun.” Fun? At just 20 years old, Jacobellis would have plenty of
chances to avenge her nightmare, but the ghost of Turin
continued to follow her, and her fortunes faded whenever the biggest stage
arrived. In the 2010 Vancouver games
she arrived as the favourite, but was disqualified in
the semifinal after hitting a gate. And she’s hit the gate. Jacobellis is out! She entered the 2014 Sochi
Games as a favourite for the
gold. This time,
she fell in her semifinal run. And she’s down again! The nightmare continues
for Jacobellis. Incredibly, the four-time
World Champion is yet to win Olympic gold. Sometimes the silver medallist
can be forgotten – but nobody will forget
who came second in the women’s snowboard cross
in 2006.

Antonio Breitenberg

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