Nick Baumgartner earns snowboard cross Olympic spot over Seth Wescott
Nick Baumgartner cried. A fourth-grade class at Stambaugh Elementary School screamed.
Baumgartner was named to his second U.S. Olympic Team on Friday, beating out two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott for the final spot on the men’s snowboard cross team going to Sochi.
U.S. coaches told Baumgartner he had been selected at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., after he and Wescott were eliminated in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.
Baumgartner then called Stambaugh Elementary in Iron River, Mich., where he was connected to his 9-year-old son, Landon, to spread the word.
“I was crying,” Baumgartner said. “Losing it.”
He quickly got a call back from the school, which wanted confirmation because Landon was being coy about the news. Baumgartner obliged, and he could hear the classroom’s reaction on the other end of the line.
It capped a stressful two weeks for Baumgartner, who was the top U.S. rider not to earn automatic qualification onto the Olympic Team during the World Cup season.
Three other men did, leaving one spot for the U.S. team to fill with either him or Wescott, who was coming back from April ACL surgery.
Wescott finished 49th and 31st in his first two races back two weeks ago, but was thought to still be a Sochi candidate given he’s the only Olympic champion men’s snowboard cross has ever known.
Wescott competed in Friday’s quarterfinals first, finishing fifth where the top three advanced. Baumgartner watched Wescott’s race at the top of the hill on a TV screen, cheering for him. He admires Wescott, but at the same time seeing the result put him at ease.
Ten minutes later, Baumgartner set out on his quarterfinal and also finished fifth. He was dissatisfied with his performance in the immediate aftermath, but, after making the Olympic Team, said he felt good overall.
“I was happy with my riding again here,” Baumgartner said. “I thought I rode really well, really smart and going for it. That’s what it takes to win.”
Baumgartner was still teary eyed from talking to his son when he made eye contact with Wescott for the first time after the Olympic announcement.
“[Wescott] came up, gave me a big hug and said congrats,” Baumgartner said. “He’s a role model for me. I think he should be for everyone.”
In 2010, Baumgartner accomplished his goal of making the Olympic Team. His sights are set higher this year, given he’s won X Games gold and silver and World Championships bronze since the Vancouver Games.
“Half the goal was to make the team,” Baumgartner said. “Now my goal is winning a medal and bringing it back to Michigan.”
Baumgartner joins Alex Deibold, Nate Holland and Trevor Jacob on the men’s Olympic Team. The women’s team has not been announced yet, but it will include Lindsey Jacobellis and at most two more riders.
Wescott, 37, has said he will continue to compete with an eye on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He would be the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history if he’s able to do so.