Russian husband and wife win snowboard parallel GS medals
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Vic Wild, an American-born rider who became a Russian citizen two years ago, thrilled his adopted country and won the men’s snowboard parallel giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Wednesday, beating Swiss Nevin Galmarini in the final head-to-head run at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
About 15 minutes earlier Wild’s Russian wife, Alena Zavarzina, took the bronze medal in the women’s parallel GS. She finished behind Swiss gold medalist Patrizia Kummer and silver medalist Tomoka Takeuchi of Japan.
Wild, 28, previously competed for the United States but got frustrated with the lack of funding for alpine snowboarding. He married Zavarzina, and became a Russian citizen in 2012.
“I want to thank Russia for giving me the opportunity to win a gold medal,” Wild said after the win, which gave Russia its first gold in a snowboard event at the Sochi Games. “My teammates helped me so much. I don’t think many of them like me, but I really appreciate it.”
The fiercely partisan, flag-waving crowd that was packed into the stands at the extreme park were loud and boisterous in their support for Wild, who admitted to reporters after his race that while he liked living in Moscow, he was not really able to speak Russian.
In parallel giant slalom, riders race on adjacent courses with the same number of flags. All the finals heats consist of two runs and the competitors change courses for the second run. The loser of the first run starts with a time delay, which corresponds to the finishing margin on the first run. The winner of the second run wins the race.
In the men’s event, Zan Kosir of Slovenia won the bronze after beating Germany’s Patrick Bussler in the “small final,” the bronze medal event.
Kummer was thrilled to take home the gold in the women’s race. “I still can’t believe it. It’s crazy,” she said. “I still have the feeling that I have to go up and do another run.”
Takeuchi, who had blistering runs throughout all the rounds leading up to the final, fell about two-thirds of the way into the second run of the final and Kummer zipped across the finish line first. Still, with the silver medal, Takeuchi became the first woman from Asia to win a medal in snowboarding at Sochi. “Asia is becoming really strong in snowboarding, not just Japan but all of Asia,” she said. “I never expected to become a snowboarder.”
Zavarzina got the bronze medal after defeating Ina Meschik of Austria in the women’s small final.
The only American in either the men’s or women’s races was Justin Reiter, who finished 24th. The irony of being a one-man team, while a one-time American rider wins gold, was a little too thick for him.
“The only difference between (us) is that he (Wild) has a complete team of people supporting him,” Reiter said. “It absolutely puts a lot of pressure on me being the sole athlete here. I want to represent the sport really well, I want to do the best that I can and I want to inspire younger riders. It’s tough to be the only one out here. It’s tough to be like a stray dog. Everyone’s talking about the stray dogs in Sochi. Yeah I’m part of Team USA but I feel like I’m on my own.”
Reiter gets another shot at a medal on Saturday in the parallel slalom, the final snowboarding event at the Games. “I do believe I can win a medal,” he said, “and thankfully we have another event that’s coming up. Most people think that I’m a better slalom rider. I have a lot of good results there.”
Coming up tomorrow:
(All times for Sochi; subtract nine hours for EST)
Freestyle. Men’s ski cross takes place at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, with seeding at 11:45 a.m., 1/8 finals at 1:30 p.m., quarters at 2:05 p.m., semis at 2:25 p.m., and finals at 2:39 p.m.
Freestyle. Women’s ski halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, with qualifying at 6:30 p.m. and finals at 9:30 p.m.
Nordic combined. The team large hill/4x5km event, with jumping at noon and cross-country at 3 p.m. The U.S. team is the defending silver medalist in the event. At the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Team USA — Brett Camerota, Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong — finished just 5.2 seconds behind the gold-medal-winning Austrian team. Demong and Lodwick are back, and will be joined by brothers Taylor and Bryan Fletcher.