“It’s the only medal that I don’t have,” Nate Holland declared, still breathless after winning his fifth consecutive gold medal at Saturday afternoon’s Winter X Games 14 in Aspen, Colo.
“Definitely my number one goal going into Vancouver is to win it.” Holland adds, “I mean — Olympic gold — C’mon. You gotta go for it.”
“Going for it” has always been one of Holland’s specialties. The 31-year-old is a true veteran of the sport. Becoming the first ever Winter X Games champion to win five gold medals is a testament to his all-in approach.
But that same approach lost him an Olympic medal at Torino, Italy, in 2006.
“Torino was… ugh, Olympic dreams shattered.” Holland told us during an interview we did with him last month.
“All it took was just a millisecond of my concentration to be broken,” he said of the fall that cost him a victory. Shaking his head, he then added, “As soon as I fell in Torino I [was] like ‘Well… Vancouver here I come. Four more years.'”
Indeed, Holland is on his way to Vancouver. But the deja vu from 2006 is starting to sink in.
Just a week and a half before Holland headed to Torino he competed in the 2006 Winter X Games XII, winning his first X Games gold medal. After that, Holland was the favorite to win in Torino. His 14th-place finish was a major disappointment to himself and to his country.
This time around he seems more comfortable with the pressure. “I know what to expect with media, security, even Secret Service popping up out of nowhere,” he says. “All I can do is ride my heart out and see where I land, hopefully on top of that podium. I’ve been able to turn all those butterflies in my stomach into positive energy now.”
Holland will join Graham Watanabe, Nick Baumgartner and 2006 Olympic snowboardcross gold-medalist Seth Wescott on the men’s U.S. snowboardcross team this year. “It was a huge battle to make this men’s SBX team,” said Peter Foley, the U.S. snowboarding head coach. “Vancouver is going to be an incredible fight for the podium, and our guys are ready for it.”
Though Wescott has an Olympic gold medal, he’s never won gold at the X Games, despite seven appearances on the podium. For the past five games he’s been playing second fiddle to Holland, including Saturday in Aspen, Colo. “Always the bridesmaid,” Wescott joked during the post-race interview.
Whether Holland can carry his momentum all the way up to and through Vancouver will be determined on Feb. 15, when the Olympic snowboardcross men’s competition will kick off at Cypress Mountain.