Board Crazy; Americans Shine in Some Wild New Sports, but Some Big Names Crash and Burn

By Starr, Mark | Newsweek, February 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

Board Crazy; Americans Shine in Some Wild New Sports, but Some Big Names Crash and Burn


Starr, Mark, Newsweek


Byline: Mark Starr (With Devin Gordon and Bret Begun)

Maybe the crowds in Torino aren't stoked to fever pitch, as they were in Salt Lake City four years ago. Then again, the Italian Olympic team isn't on a record medal pace--with just six halfway through the Games--as the U.S. team was in 2002. And maybe American TV ratings for the Torino Games are lackluster, with viewers preferring idol searches to medal chases. But none of that mattered last week in the mountains above Torino where, with rabid fans overflowing the grandstand to witness the first-ever Olympics snowboard cross, America's Seth Wescott rocked the joint.

Snowboard cross, or SBX, was added to the Olympics to inject an extreme edge, as well as something that's rare at the Winter Games: the thrill of head-to-head competition. And it delivered more excitement and mayhem than anyone could have dreamed. In the men's final, after two of the four boarders wiped out, Wescott found himself pinned behind Radoslav Zidek of Slovakia. But in a move unimaginable to the uninitiated, he hurdled past him on an inside turn and held on in a photo finish.

The women's final was also compelling, if bizarrely so. America's Lindsey Jacobellis was cruising unchallenged to the finish line when she, too, came up with an unimaginable move--only hers was unimaginably bad. She hot-dogged for the fans on a late jump, lost her balance and fell to a silver medal. "I was having fun. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd," Jacobellis said afterward. "Stuff happens. It's just a race." U.S. coach Peter Foley may not have shared that view, as he tumbled to the ground in disbelief when she Jacoblewit.

For the U.S. team, there have been some thrilling triumphs, especially in speed skating, where three different men--Chad Hedrick, Joey Cheek and Shani Davis--have won all three individual races (the 5,000, 500 and 1,000 meters, respectively). But disappointments--particularly among its big-name stars--have clouded them. Bode Miller led the alpine combined until he was disqualified for straddling a slalom gate (though American unknown Ted Ligety stormed to the gold), then skied off the course in the super G. …

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