After U.S. snowboard crosser Alex Deibold stepped onto his first-ever FIS World Cup podium last year at Sochi's Olympic test event, he tweeted a sentiment shared by countless Olympians: "31 starts, 300,000 miles flown, two surgeries, countless hours of training and hard work and it was all worth it…finally." For many athletes, including this Connecticut native, the road to Sochi was way more than four years in the making.
In 2003, when snowboard cross was added to the 2006 Olympic roster, Deibold, a recent high school graduate, was asked to be a member of the U.S. Team. Now, more than a decade later, Alex Deibold has made his first Olympic team at what might seem like a snail’s pace. In the last 11 years, he has watched as many of his teammates achieved monumental success: Seth Wescott won the Olympics, twice, and Nate Holland has more X Games gold medals, at seven, than any man in the sport. Granted, these men are nearly 10 years Deibold's senior, but on a long list of U.S. podium finishers, Alex Deibold just wasn't one of them.
Until this year.
His career path has been a slow and steady climb to the top, which might seem contradictory for an athlete competing in a fast-paced event like snowboard cross, which puts six men head to head on a whirlwind course that pushes them over 60-foot jumps and around banks, making high-speed passes a must and bone-breaking pileups par for the course. "You don't really hit your stride until your late 20s in this sport because you have to have so many races under your belt before you can really excel," Deibold told Shape magazine.
Now, after nearly 40 starts, a 27-year-old Deibold has found his rhythm. He’s gone from a back-of-the-pack World Cup finisher to consistently making finals. He's a hard worker who has steadily put in the time training and riding to chisel away his spot in the sport. In 2010, when he failed to make the Olympic team, he packed his bags for Vancouver anyway and pitched in as a wax tech for his teammates.
"It was grueling work … and I wouldn't trade it," Deibold told Sports Illustrated. "I got to be a part of the Olympic experience without the pressure of having to perform." Three years later, however, he went to World Championships in Québec, Canada, once again as board support and emerged with a whole new perspective. "I was so motivated to never be there [as a wax tech] again," he shared.
Just a few weeks later, that motivation paid off: Deibold won his first World Cup medal. He’ll look to recapture that feeling Monday in Sochi. Those waxing skills may come in handy …
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