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X Games: Holland earns fourth gold

With three X Games snowboardcross gold medals under his belt already, anyone who didn’t watch the race might guess a fourth was in the bag for Nate Holland. But really, he had to work for it every inch of the way.

In fourth position for much of the finals, Holland somehow found new speed after the halfway point of the course and began to reel in eventual bronze medalist Stian Sivertzen and silver medalist Graham Watanabe to earn his fourth X Games gold with a final run finish time of 1 minute, 41.25 seconds.

“This one was especially hard; the guys really made me work for it,” said a glowing Holland after the race. “Snow conditions were slow. We were on the track longer. Fatigue was playing an issue with legs. But in the finals, you don’t need to think about it. You’re just going for it. All you want to do is win.”
ASPEN, Colo. – With three X Games snowboardcross gold medals under his belt already, anyone who didn’t watch the race might guess a fourth was in the bag for Nate Holland. But really, he had to work for it every inch of the way.

In fourth position for much of the finals, Holland somehow found new speed after the halfway point of the course and began to reel in eventual bronze medalist Stian Sivertzen and silver medalist Graham Watanabe to earn his fourth X Games gold with a final run finish time of 1 minute, 41.25 seconds.

“This one was especially hard; the guys really made me work for it,” said a glowing Holland after the race. “Snow conditions were slow. We were on the track longer. Fatigue was playing an issue with legs. But in the finals, you don’t need to think about it. You’re just going for it. All you want to do is win.”

With constant snow and sleet falling on the course all day, conditions were intermittently sticky and fast throughout the long course of tight bank turns, rollers, whoopty-dos and three huge kickers.

After winning the quarterfinals, Holland took third behind Watanabe and Sivertzen in the semis and trailed them for what at first looked to be the entire final run. At one point, when he took took the inside line as Watanabe and Sivertzen were coming into the last bank turn, there was a clacking of boards which could have easily resulted in a crash, but Holland pulled ahead.

“I was sitting in fourth for a while, then third behind Stian and Graham, both amazing riders,” Holland said. “I was thinking, there’s no way I’m not going to try to make a pass. I took a little different line through the option feature and got in the mix. I got Graham there. Later on, I was able to get Stian on some whoops. It was amazing coming into the last kicker. I didn’t hear anybody. I couldn’t see anybody in my peripherial. I was like, no way. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it.”

Holland ended up .44 seconds ahead of Watanabe in the final run and 1.09 seconds ahead of Norwegian Sivertzen, who went down and popped back up to cross the finish line. Sivertzen earned crowd-pleasing points in his quarter final run when he pulled a huge front flip off the final kicker coming into the finish line.

“I’ve done it all the time in training,” he said, adding that he had a bad start in the final run, then tried to pump ahead “but didn’t make it.”

“It’s Stian’s go-to move,” Watanabe added about the front flip. “He’ll find the biggest jump on the course and throw a front flip every time. It’s awesome.”

Watanabe, fresh off a sixth-place at the world championships in South Korea, was happy with his X Games silver, and thrilled for his teammate’s fourth gold.

“I’m so psyched for him; it’s defnitely something that’s not going to be accomplished a lot of times in the sport,” Watanabe said. “He’s just got that drive. I don’t know what it is, something supernatural where you can will yourself to go faster. He definitely wanted it more than anybody out there and he got what he wanted. I’m super-psyched (with silver); there were a lot of hair ball rounds where I was dodging people and dodging people. It’s tough because I got every hole shot, but being the size I am and with all this fresh snow, it was hard to keep that lead.”

At 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, Watanabe was easily the smallest guy on the course. He distinguished himself further in growing a Fu Manchu mustache, growing his hair long, then shaving his crown balled the night before the race. The look resulted from a pact he made with the rest of the U.S. men’s snowboardcross team back in September.

“I convinced them,,” he said. “We would grow out our hair and our facial hair. But I like to mix it up. Before completely shaving it off, I wanted to do something fun with it.”

Evidently, Holland had a hand in the late-night creative shaving, and Watanabe was sure to razz him for not sticking to the pact.

“You have very little to no fear on a snowboard, so what caused you to back out of the hair agreement?” Watanabe asked his teammate through the microphone at the post X Games press conference.

Holland said now that his fourth X gold is notched, he may just aim for a World Cup overall, though he said that he prefers the longer format of the X Games course because often times, the four-man format on the shorter World Cup courses make for little catch-up time for racers who don’t get the hole shot right out of the gate.

“I’m just going to go into every race trying to win,” he said. “I’m just going to lay everything down.”

German David Speiser finished fourth Saturday while world championship bronze medalist Nick Baumgartner, who was leading the pack at one point in the finals, crashed and finished fifth. For the first time in his 12-year history at Winter X, 2006 Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott did not make it to the finals after he collided with Jonathan Cheever, who took sixth overall, in the semis.

Holland is the only rider in X Games boardercross history to earn a four peat.

X Games men’s snowboardcross final results:

1.         Nate Holland                            Truckee, Calif.                           100.523
2.         Graham Watanabe                      Hailey, Idaho                             101.153
3.         Stian Sivertzen                      Kongsberg, Norway                   105.193
4.         David Speiser                             Oberstdorf, Germany                 107.561
5.         Nick Baumgartner                    Iron River, Mich.                        108.270
6.         Jonathan Cheever                      Saugus, Mass.                          114.935

Consolation:
7.         Seth Wescott                          Sugarloaf, Maine                       100.607
8.         Rob Fagan                              Cranbrook, B.C., Canada           101.392
9.         Jason Smith                             Basalt, Colo.                             102.317
10.        Jayson Hale                            Sierraville, Calif.                        103.242
11.        Michal Novotny                    Prague, Czech Republic             103.391
12.        Pat Holland                            Sandpoint, Idaho                       105.963

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