Women’s boardercross gets its turn in the Olympic spotlight Friday in PyeongChang (Thursday night in the U.S.), and U.S. snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis is among the favorites once again.
Jacobellis, now a four-time Olympian, is the most decorated woman in snowboard cross history, but she is still seeking her first Olympic title. 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.
Jacobellis recovered to win the silver medal, which should have been an admirable accomplishment. But instead, the focus was on the mistake that cost her gold.
Those familiar with boardercross 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.
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 pto 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.
Coming into PyeongChang, Jacobellis — now 32 — is still one of the sport’s elite racers. In the past 12 months, she’s won gold at the world championships (she’s now a perfect 5-for-5 at worlds) and won a pair of World Cup events.
In other words, her odds of winning Olympic gold are still quite high.
It won’t come easy though. It never does in snowboard cross.
There’s the Czech Reuplic’s Eva Samkova, who won the gold medal at the last Olympics in dominant fashion.
There’s Michela Moioli of Italy, who currently leads the World Cup rankings.
There’s a strong French team led by 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Chloe Trespeuch. She and her three teammates — Charlotte Bankes, Nelly Moenne Loccoz and 16-year-old Julia Pereira — are all ranked inside of the top seven of the World Cups standings this year.
There’s Jacobellis’ own teammate, Faye Gulini, a three-time Olympian who finished in fourth place at the last Olympics.
And, of course, there’s the inherent nature of boardercross itself with its penchant for untimely crashes and overall bad luck.
It’s a lot to overcome, but if Jacobellis does so, it could make that first gold medal all that much sweeter.
How to Watch
NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Links to each stream are below.
Qualifying Runs: Thursday, Feb. 15, 8:00 p.m. ET
Elimination Heats: Thursday, Feb. 15, 10:15 p.m. ET