Nate Holland looks to finally 'cross' off gold in Sochi
“They can take that thing home. We’re just going to rent it for the month.”
Those fifteen words were uttered by U.S. snowboard cross rider Nate Holland before the 2010 Winter Olympics, riffing on Canada’s Own the Podium program.
The U.S. definitely “rented” the podium in Vancouver, winning the most medals of those Winter Games, with 37, including nine golds. Unfortunately for Holland, his actions out on the course did not speak louder than his infamous words. For the second consecutive Olympics, the Idaho native failed to reach the podium.
Snowboard cross, which has been described as NASCAR on snow, made its Olympic debut in Torino in 2006. Holland’s free-spirited yet aggressive personality was perfect for this sport. In the quarterfinals, Holland faced off against fellow American Jason Smith. Holland caught too much air on a jump and landed on his backside. He later blamed Smith for slowing down in front of him.
“I don’t know what he’s doing speed-checking in the course on an Olympic game day.”
At the time of the crash, Holland was in second place. He finished 14th.
Four years later in Vancouver, Holland was confident going into the competition. Two years prior, he won an invitational title at the Canadian Snowboard Nationals at Cypress Mountain. This time he hit a rut on turn four and crashed. Holland, again, was in second place. He left Vancouver just missing the podium, finishing fourth.
Both times, teammate and close friend Seth Wescott won gold.
Embedded video_content_type: The rise and falls of Nate Holland
Holland knows the challenges of defeating Wescott, who has what Nate wants, and will once again be standing in his way of Olympic gold.
“When the gate drops, it’s time to try and execute the best you can.”
The six-time Winter X Games gold medalist’s execution will have to be perfect, not to just potentially beat Wescott in Sochi, but also to simply get there.
“It’s going to be really tough,” says Holland about qualifying for the U.S. “I’m going to go in there and shred and do what I know what to do. I’m making sure I get all the work done, all the training done so when I’m in the gate I give myself the best shot of an opportunity of making the team.”
In order to make the team, Holland knows what he needs to do.
“If I’m able to make the podium two times out of four races before the Games, I’ll be going in with a lot of confidence and trust in my riding and in my ability, which is huge,” explains Holland. “It’s a big head game up there in the start gate with all the guys. When you’re riding high on confidence, it makes it a little easier.”
Holland’s plan is to stick to what has worked in the past.
“There’s not a lot I’m doing differently to prepare myself. At both Olympics I was riding really well. I’ve definitely progressed. My riding’s progressed. My fitness has progressed. My experience has progressed, so I feel a little bit more prepared. It’s just the longevity of myself being in the game of snowboarding.
Holland has been on the podium, he’s had results, he knows what it takes.
“I’m sticking to my guns. There’s not a lot I can do differently to get those results and work my butt off in training and be super focused on snow and just get in the gate and execute. Once I do that, either results will come or it won’t. You really can’t control that. Hopefully third time's the charm.”
Being a two-time Olympian has given the 35-year-old lessons to live by.
“The two previous experiences I had such a great time, so that’s a motivating factor in my training. I would love to write the story that I got 14th in Torino, I got a heartbreaking fourth in Vancouver and now I’m training my butt off to get a gold in Sochi. That storyline makes a lot of sense to me. That’s the story I’ve written in my head and now I have to play it out.”
Holland is now poised to return to the Olympics with one goal in mind: to win gold. He’s already been to Sochi to check out the course and loves it.
“It plays to my strengths,” Holland says.
Now all he has to do is make it to Sochi and own the podium.
Embedded video_content_type: Wescott wins SBX gold in Vancouver
Olympians with puppies