Seven times, Nate Holland has crossed the X Games finish line in front of a pack of podium-hungry snowboard crossers to take home gold. Even for the most talented of athletes that’s an amazing feat, but in a sport like snowboard cross, where the variables are numerous, that’s damn near impossible.
Holland has podiumed at 15 FIS World Cups—five of them victories—medaled at World Championships twice, and made every U.S. Olympic Team the discipline has ever known. Yet somehow an Olympic medal has eluded him. A fourth-place finish in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games gave him a bittersweet taste of Olympic success, but this time around, 35-year-old Holland is ready for victory.
But in snowboard cross, it’s just not that easy. With four riders charging over jumps, around banks, and through whoop sections side by side, the variables are numerous and the conditions can be treacherous, as Holland well knows. He’s suffered several injuries over the course of his 11 years on the U.S. Team, including a broken collarbone at the first World Cup/Olympic qualifier of the 2013-14 season in Montafon, Austria. A few days and several pins later, a post-operation Holland was back on the hill and eager to make his third Olympic team—no easy task given the depth of talent in American snowboard cross.
"I've never been one to back down from a challenge," Holland told NBC Olympics after surgery, "and I look forward to once again overcoming adversity."
At his first World Cup race post-surgery, in Lake Louise, Canada, Holland finished seventh; by January's X Games he was back on top, walking home with yet another X Games gold medal. "This year has gone up and down for me so much with the broken collarbone and Olympic qualifiers. I scratched my way into the Olympics," Holland told USSA after X Games. "It's just really been a year of adversity and I'm just stoked to overcome that … and it's given me so much confidence for Sochi."
Confidence he's going to need this Olympic go-around.
Holland is the most senior member of the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Cross Team, 15 years older than current top-ranked American Trevor Jacob and 11 years older than tour leader and Italian dominator Omar Visintin. But Holland knows what it takes. "It's the little things that win a race," he told Rolling Stone. "Everyone's fast, but if you can put together the little things, that's what wins races."
With his body put back together and the most Olympic experience of anyone in the field, we can expect Holland to win the race of his life in Sochi.
Watch Holland and his teammates gun for gold starting at 11 a.m. local time on Feb. 17. A viewers’ guide is available via NBCOlympics.com.
More Winter Olympics stories on GrindTV
Sochi Olympics make history with family ties
Say hello to the 2014 U.S. Olympic snowboard cross team
Americans sweep first-ever men's ski slopestyle Olympic podium
Five ski slopestyle tricks that will change Sochi forever
Get to know Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy
Rapper, 'angel' helped Devin Logan win silver
Who to watch for in men's ski slopestyle
Kaitlyn Farrington wins surprise gold in Sochi
Kaitlyn Farrington's road to gold in Sochi began with cows
Why I cried for Shaun White