Lindsey Jacobellis claimed the first gold medal for the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing when she won the snowboard cross final on Wednesday and finally found redemption after a career-defining fail at the Turin Games 16 years ago.
Jacobellis was within a few feet of winning the event in 2006 — the first time it was in the Olympics — when she threw in a showboating trick trying to grab her board, only to fall and get overtaken at the line.
She failed to medal again in the next three Olympics despite an astonishing 10 X-Games and five world individual titles to her name.
But on Wednesday, Jacobellis put on a dominant display, speeding past her competitors in the final, made all the sweeter as it secured the first U.S. gold of the Games.
Jacobellis said the experience in Turin made her more eager to continue competing.
“I have definitely put 2006 in the past and have done a lot of soul-searching to realize that moment doesn’t define me as an athlete and as an individual,” she said, adding that she had spent the past two decades shaping the sport for women.
Speaking to journalists near the finish line, Jacobellis acknowledge she had been under enormous pressure as a young athlete and had begun disliking the sport, adding that she may have quit entirely had she not fumbled the finish in Turin.
“It kept me hungry and kept me fighting for the gold,” she said.
The American always looked in command of Wednesday’s final but, as she knows better than anyone, nothing is settled until you cross the line.
“I wasn’t 100% sure but I wasn’t seeing anyone in my peripheral so I was confident when I crossed,” she said. “It really seemed like an unbelievable moment, it didn’t seem real at the time.
Chloe Trespeuch of France, another veteran at 37, took the silver and the bronze went to Meryeta O’Dine of Canada — both of whom were quick to share Jacobellis’ joy.
“When she crashed before the line (in 2006) it was really hard for her,” Trespeuch said, adding that the American was an inspiration for many in the sport.
Wednesday also served as a satisfying return for O’Dine, who suffered a concussion in a crash during practice and withdrew from the Pyeongchang Games four years ago, another reason why she felt able to empathize with Jacobellis.
“That (2006 run) is a very famous story in snowboard cross and to see her come home with the gold… it’s honestly really cool to see,” O’Dine said.
Australian Belle Brockoff, who finished fourth in the final, said she grew up idolizing Jacobellis and remembered watching the moment it fell apart for the American during the 2006 Games.
“For her to keep coming out and not give up is pretty inspirational,” she said.
Charlotte Bankes, the World Cup leader with three wins this season, had been expected to challenge for Britain’s first medal of the Games but crashed out of contention in the quarter-finals.