By 1999, 3.3
million Americans said they had snowboarded at least twice that year, according
to a study conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association. Five years
later that figure had doubled. But you don't need stats to know that boarding
is ascendant in this country. "Just go to any ski area," says U.S.
snowboarding coach Peter Foley. When the choice is left up to them, "most
kids want to be snowboarders. It's what kids do. It's what modern people
If Picabo Street
were born today, would the former World Cup champion skier opt instead to
shred? While Burton wouldn't go there, he did offer this: "I do think
there'd be a lot less tension in Bode Miller's life if he were a
Two years ahead
of Miller at Maine's Carrabassett Valley Academy was another supremely gifted
athlete. Unlike Miller, Wescott gravitated to boarding. After failing to make
the 1998 Olympic halfpipe team, he became one of the top SBXers in the world.
Three years ago, when his adopted sport gained admittance to the Games, he drew
a bead on Turin. A week before the competition Wescott took the chair lift up
and got his first look at the course. "I saw those Wu Tang steps right out
of the gate," he reported to Foley, back at the bottom of the hill. "I
was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's mine!'"
The Wu Tang
steps, a series of waist-high dips through which riders stand straight in the
trough, then huck their boards over the lip, favor a taller rider: Wescott is
6'1". After an uneventful run-through to the final, he fell behind a Slovak
named Radoslav Zidek in the medal race. Remaining calm, hewing to the racing
line that had served him well all day, Wescott executed a breathtaking pass
entering a turn in the bottom half of the course, then held off Zidek, barely,
for the gold.
Wescott descended from that chair-lift recon, the U.S. snowboarding team
climbed onto a Sno-Cat for an official picture. While most of the athletes wore
the team's distinctive white pinstripe unis, Jacobellis set tongues wagging
with an ensemble that included blue jeans, pink boots and matching pink
handbag. As the world would find out eight days later, here was a young woman
to whom style matters a great deal.
While the men had
their share of tumbles, the women's SBX was a true crashfest, prompting a
writer from The New York Times to remark, "It's more fun when girls wipe
out." The first 20 seconds of the women's final featured two epic spills.
Canada's Maelle Ricker, the fastest qualifier, lost control coming off a jump,
went airborne and landed hard on her back, earning herself a trip down the
mountain on a stretcher. Dominique Maltais, a Montreal firefighter, clicked
boards with Frieden and went crashing into a safety fence. Slowed by that
contact, Frieden ( Wescott's on-and-off girlfriend of the last three years)
found herself 40 yards behind Jacobellis, who needed only to stay upright to
pluck her country's fourth gold medal in four snowboarding events.
insisted afterward that she'd thrown the Method not to jazz up her run but as a
way to stabilize her board in the face of a strong wind that had been whipping
that jump, and which had given her problems in her qualifying runs.
was a reach. Neither Frieden nor Maltais, who extricated herself from the fence
to claim bronze, mentioned any problems with the wind. By the time Jacobellis
got to NBC's Turin studios some eight hours later, her story had evolved.
"I got caught
up in the moment," she glumly admitted to Bob Costas. "I made a
mistake." After a second interview, this one with Jim Lampley, she took
refuge in the green room with her agent, Josh Schwartz. When she came out, she
appeared to have been crying. Finally, Jacobellis was led to a makeshift
studio, where a jocund British photographer nattered at her, "Happy, happy!
Both hands on the medal! Exuberant now! Nice and cheery!"
disappeared the millisecond the shoot was over. So, in short order, did