Not Again: Lindsey Jacobellis Finishes 4th in Snowboard Cross

Lindsey Jacobellis, the most decorated women’s snowboard cross athlete ever, will finish her fourth Olympics just like the first three: without a gold medal.

Jacobellis, a five-time world champion, reached the finals of the event, then held onto a lead for the first two-thirds of the race. But she faded late, and finished in fourth place.

Italian Michela Moioli, France's Julia Pereira De Sousa Mabileau and the Czech Republic's Eva Samkova finished in the top three.

For Jacobellis, it's just the latest moment in a disappointing Olympic career. It began 12 years ago, in Torino, when she seemed to have the gold medal wrapped up, with a huge lead down the race’s final stretch. But she tried a flashy move off a jump and fell, and settled for silver.

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Since then, the Olympics have been her kryptonite. She crashed in early rounds in both 2008 and 2012, and failed to reach the final.

Americans Faye Gulini and Meghan Tierney failed to advance to the semifinals.

Jacobellis, now a 32-year-old four-time Olympian, is the most decorated woman in snowboard cross history. The fact that she hasn't already won a gold medal can partly be chalked up to spurts of bad luck and youthful exuberance, but Jacobellis has a chance to erase all the narratives and rewrite her own history in PyeongChang.

First, let's get the backstory out of the way. As most people know by now, Jacobellis — just 20 years old at the time — arrived at the 2006 Olympics as a heavy medal favorite, then dominated her way through all of her heat races. She had such a large lead in the final race that she decided to show her enthusiasm to the crowd by attempting a stylish method grab over one of the final jumps, but then she fell down and lost the lead.

Those familiar with snowboard cross understand the unpredictable nature of the sport. The fact that Jacobellis crashed out of her semifinal heat at each of the last two Olympics is a perfect example of that. But to those who only follow the sport once every four years, those results fit a pattern that started in Torino.

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Away from Olympic competition, Jacobellis has won just about everything there is to win. 10 X Games gold medals. Five world titles. In her mind, there's nothing left to prove.

But until she wins Olympic gold, she's aware that the questions about 2006 will persist.

"She’s had a bad experience with the Olympics, and in a lot of ways she dreads the Olympics now," U.S. snowboard cross coach Peter Foley told the New York Times in a recent story about Jacobellis.

In the lead-up to these Olympics, Jacobellis started working with a mental coach, who instructed her to embrace and accept the memories of what happened in 2006 rather than push them out of her mind, according to the Times' story.

She came so close, but not quite close enough.

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(Published Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018)