Lindsey Jacobellis, Torah Bright fail to reach snowboard cross final

Lindsey Jacobellis

Gold-medal favorite Lindsey Jacobellis was unable to capture a spot on the podium Sunday despite promising riding in the early rounds of competition. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Much has been made of the number three during the buildup to the women's snowboard cross event in Sochi, Russia, this year. Three American women would vy for gold; U.S. Team star Lindsey Jacobellis would be trying, in her third Olympic appearance, to finally step onto the podium; and powerhouse Torah Bright would compete in the last of an unheard-of three snowboard disciplines for her home country of Australia.

Unfortunately, it was the disappointing "bad things come in threes" version of the story that came to pass Sunday afternoon at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. While American rookie Faye Gulini rode her way skillfully—and admirably—all the through to the big final, she finished fourth in the end, behind fellow first-timer Eva Samkova (CZE), Canadian favorite Dominique Maltais (CAN), and 19-year-old Chloe Trespeuch of France.

Eva Samkova prepped for race day by having a moustache painted on her face. Apparently this is her good-luck charm. #bowse Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Eva Samkova prepped for race day by having a mustache painted on her face. Apparently this is her good-luck charm. #bowse Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

[Editor’s note: It cannot not be mentioned that Samkova prepped for race day by having a moustache painted on her face. Apparently this is her good-luck charm. #bowse]

Jacobellis, despite displaying early on the strong, fast riding that's made her a tour de force when it comes to snowboard cross, succumbed to the same fate that befell her in Vancouver in 2010. On the last turn of the semifinal event, she slid out, losing the speed she'd need to carry her toward a chance at redemption and a gold medal.

Adding insult to injury, Jacobellis' failure to advance funneled her into what's known as the "small final," where the bottom six riders from semis face off for seventh to 12th place in the official standings. She put whatever emotions she was feeling aside, however—the mark of a true professional athlete—and rode well in the runoff, capturing her usual place as first to the finish despite surely feeling as though she'd left her heart on the seventh turn of the previous race.

Bright was matched against Jacobellis in the fourth quarterfinal heat and did not advance, finishing fifth in the field of five. She's known for her perpetually sunny disposition, however, and met her rivals at course bottom with smiles and hugs for those who made it through. Bright's true nature as a halfpipe and terrain-park rider is always evident in her racing; she can't help but grab when she's in the air and often lofts higher than necessary over the kickers, mostly out of instinct. Though that may have hurt her in the end, Bright still goes home with a silver medal in women's slopestyle—not a bad endgame for this history-maker.

Torah Bright

Is this the face of disappointment? Nope, it’s the face of a woman proud of her performance (and of her silver medal in slopestyle). Torah Bright takes it in stride. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It had been an extremely disconcerting and foreboding start to the women's Olympic snowboard cross competition in Sochi on Sunday morning. In the very first run of the seeding round, a dramatic crash took out Norway’s Helene Olafsen, who yelped in pain as medics unstrapped her from her board and laid her carefully into a sled for transportation down the hill. While the next rider moved through unscathed, American Jackie Hernandez's first-ever chance at Olympic gold was removed in a fraction of a second when an off-kilter landing swept her legs from beneath her.

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Hernandez landed nearly perpendicularly off a kicker midway down the course, catching her heel edge immediately and landing violently on her head and neck. As she slid to a frighteningly passive stop, medics rushed down to evaluate her condition despite her very vocal (and clearly frustrated) protestations. Alas, she was deemed unfit to continue, and the 21-year-old from Londonberry, Vermont, had to reluctantly leave it to the two other American women to try to bring home a medal for the U.S., as she, too, was tobogganed off-course for care.

The men will compete in snowboard cross beginning with seeding at 11 a.m. local time Monday. A viewers' guide is available via NBCOlympics.com.

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