Connecticut's own Lindsey Jacobellis has won Team USA its first gold at the Beijing Winter Olympics in the snowboard cross.
The 36-year-old clutched the first spot in what is her fifth Olympic games, defeating Chloe Trespeuch of France and becoming the oldest medalist in the sport. Jacobellis is now a two-time Olympic medalist. She won her first medal, a silver, in 2006.
Up until Wednesday, Jacobellis was best known for taking a massive lead into the final jump at the 2006 Turin Games, but tweaking her board as she road over the crest, then falling and settling for silver.
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This time, she rode hard all the way to the line, beating France’s Chloe Trespeuch, then covering her heart with her hands as she slowed. Canada’s Meryeta Odine won the bronze.
The victory came after America’s top racer, skier Mikaela Shiffrin, skidded out and failed to finish the first run of the slalom, making her 0-for-2 in Beijing.
“They can keep talking about it all they want,” Jacobellis said Wednesday, referring to her first Olympics mishap. “Because it really shaped me into the individual that I am. It kept me hungry and really kept me fighting in this sport.”
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 was not 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 has amassed 45 World Cup podiums; 23 of those 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.
Still, that silver-medal Olympic performance has followed her, and she has 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.
The trip back down the hill might be more crowded.
“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.”