USA’s Alex Deibold takes bronze in men’s snowboard cross

Alex Deibold
From wax tech to bronze-medal winner, Alex Deibold really has seen it all when it comes to the Olympics. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The men's snowboard cross competition finally got underway Tuesday morning in a rainy Rosa Khutor Extreme Park after the heavy fog that lingered on the course Monday, severely limiting visibility, forced officials to reschedule the event for safety reasons. Seeding, cancelled the previous day, was not reinstated, and the draw for the 1/8 finals was based on current World Cup standings.

The event was a nonstop nail-biter, with the wrecks snowboard cross is known for peppering each round and taking out some of the world's best athletes mid-run (and mid-fog, which drifted in and out of the course all morning). Photo finishes were frequent throughout—the most unique, perhaps, being between Team USA's Alex Deibold and Trevor Jacob in the first heat of the semifinals. Live tweeting from the event, NBC snowboard writer Shawn Smith shared this image minutes after it was over:


The two men were atop one another coming off the final kicker, battling it out for the critical third-place finish needed to get to the medal event, when both lost their balance right before the finish line, sliding at breakneck speed alongside one another. Deibold came through by a nose, advanced to the big final, and rode consistently through to a bronze medal—the first ever for this 27-year-old racer, whose last visit to the Olympics, in 2010, was as a wax tech supporting his teammates.

Trevor Jacob
If they gave out medals for helmets, Trevor Jacob would have had no competition for gold. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jacob continued on to the small final, where a late pass got him third place in the heat and a ninth-place finish overall.

Seven-time X Games gold medalist Nate Holland, 35, will go home empty-handed from Sochi once again. A favorite heading into the race, he and Jacob held the first and second positions for much of the 1/8 final in which they were slotted, but Holland overshot a jump and lost speed on a subsequent roller. He never recovered from the loss and finished fourth in his heat—not enough to propel him into the quarters and beyond to redeem his previous two Olympic appearances, in which his best finish was fourth overall in Vancouver in 2010.

Nick Baumgartner, also of the USA, lost his momentum before the step-up jump right past the gate pull in his 1/8 final heat and, like Holland, could not make up lost time. He placed fourth out of five men in the heat, earning an equal-25th spot alongside Holland in the final results.

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It's almost a miracle anyone crosses the finish line with speed in an event like snowboard cross. Typically beginning with seeding, which is a best-of-two-runs time trial to determine bracketing for the final rounds, the competitors race as aggressively as they can down the course—a massive sprint less than 90 seconds in the undertaking. However, there is little room to catch one's breath; just a few minutes pass between brackets, meaning the man who makes it from seeding through to the big final will have rocketed down the same difficult course—shoulder to shoulder with his equally fit rivals—six times before he can start peeling off those sweaty layers. It's one of the most demanding, physically exhausting events in the sport of snowboarding, even when two of those runs are eliminated as they were in Sochi.

Russia finally took home a snowboarding medal Tuesday, with Nikolay Olyunin photo-finishing into silver behind France's Pierre Vaultier. Australia's Alex Pullin, definitely a podium contender when the event began, did not advance beyond the quarterfinals.

MEN'S SNOWBOARD CROSS FINAL RESULTS
Big Final
1. Pierre Vaultier (FRA)
2. Nikolay Olyunin (RUS)
3. Alex Deibold (USA)
4. Paul-Henri De Le Rue (FRA)
5. Stian Sivertzen (NOR)
6. Luca Matteotti (ITA)

Small Final
7. Lucas Eguibar (ESP)
8. Kevin Hill (CAN)
9. Trevor Jacob (USA)
10. Hanno Douschan (AUT)
11. Cameron Bolton (AUS) – DNF
12. Omar Visintin (ITA) – DNS

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