U.S. snowboarder Nate Holland, a three-time Olympian in snowboard cross, became a three-peat Winter Olympics accident victim in the event Tuesday, and he thinks he knows why.
"The Olympic rings, these five rings, they don't agree with me apparently," Holland, 35, said afterward, according to the USSA News Bureau. "Every Olympics for me has ended in a fall, and I felt great in all of them."
And this is a guy who has won snowboard cross gold in the Winter X Games a whopping seven times, including last month, and has been on the World Cup podium 17 times with six gold, eight silver, and three bronze medals.
He's no slouch in snowboard cross. Except at the Winter Olympics. The rings trip him up.
To recap, Holland finished 14th at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. In the quarterfinals, he caught too much air on a jump and landed on his backside, later blaming American Jason Smith for slowing down in front of him.
Holland finished fourth at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. He hit a rut on turn four and crashed.
This time, in the first qualifier—called the 1/8 final, with five riders—Holland, a gold-medal favorite, was second before his latest mishap caused him to miss the quarterfinals by a spot, becoming the odd man out.
"I slid out, butt-checked, and got up and no one had passed me yet," he explained, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. "'Oh my God, was I just given a gift?’ And then an Italian comes flying over my head and well, there's two guys [Finland's Anton Lindfors and Italy's Tommaso Leoni, to be exact]. All right.
"Headed for the finish line, at that point you're just hoping for a gift that someone falls. You're not hoping that someone falls, but it happens."
As Holland knows all too well.
It didn't happen, however, and they advanced to the quarterfinals without him, and Holland was relegated to rooting for his American teammates, with Alex Deibold winding up with a bronze medal.
"They give me a lot of drive, a lot of joy while I'm here," Holland said of the Winter Olympics, "but also a lot of heartbreak at the end of the race."
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