Knee brace no problem for snowboard cross gold medalist Pierre Vaultier
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – You’d never know it by his showing on the crazy course that caused many snowboard cross upsets on Tuesday, but Pierre Vaultier was wearing a knee brace during his gold medal run.
France’s Vaultier had literally no expectations of winning snowboard cross when he showed up to race the best in the world, but to his own surprise he had the best run of the big final and rode out of the event with gold around his neck.
How’d he do it? He stayed relaxed.
Embedded video_content_type: Pierre Vaultier wins gold in men's snowboard cross
“I felt quite relaxed because I was not supposed to be here. I have a broken ACL and am racing with a brace,” said the mellow man from France. “My knee could have stopped me way before. I was racing with no pressure, and it brought me to the bottom in first place.”
Speaking about the pushback of the event, a result of thick fog postponing the event from its originally-scheduled time on Monday, he said, “for me it was OK because I am far from the leadership, I’m really an outsider. It helped me very much, because I took it for a normal thing… I think so of the leaders did not have the same chance as me to get through it alive.”
Once again, the snowboard cross course in the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park showed no favoritism to any rider, especially those that came into the event with the highest expectations to do well.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the lens: Pierre Vaultier wins snowboard cross gold, Alex Deibold takes bronze
American Nate Holland and Austrian Markus Schairer were both expected to ride their way to the day’s big final but both were eliminated on their very first ride. Holland was quoted earlier in the week saying, “Being my third Olympics, I can remember back [to the first] where there were heats and in the first heat you’d be like, ‘OK, this is a cruiser heat. I can advance through,’ but nowadays it’s not like that. Everybody is fast. You have to be on your game every heat and ride at a pretty high level to make it through any heat.”
That proved to be too true for Holland who had no such cruiser heat. Holland hit the top of the landing of one of the smaller jumps and simply was not able to regain the speed lost from the missed rhythm.
Embedded video_content_type: More heartbreak for Nate Holland in men's snowboard cross
An underdog of sorts, Russian Nikolay Olyunin was riding with ferocity for his home country crowd and was looking nearly unbeatable, winning every race of the day before the final where he ultimately took second.
Oddly enough, Olyunin had already announced his retirement from the sport last year, directly following his return to competition after undergoing two surgeries in his hand. The Sochi Games were to be his last competition.
In 2010 he did his country proud by earning their first gold in a snowboard cross event at a Junior World Championships, and has now upped that pride for his country with their first medal at the Olympics in the event.
Although he was not the expected American to make it to the podium, Alex Deibold stepped his game up to earn bronze for his country and continue the streak of at least one American on the podium each year in in the sport’s Olympic history — as did Vaultier for the French. The two countries swapped positions in Sochi, as in the past two Olympics it was the Americans that won the gold and the French riders holding the bronze medals.
Embedded video_content_type: Photo finish in men's snowboard cross semifinal
Admitting to his love for the unpredictable nature of snowboard cross, Deibold said, “boarder cross is interesting and exciting to watch because anything can happen. You see a lot of guys get way out in front and then go down — it was unfortunate to see that happen to my teammate Lindsey — but that’s boarder cross and that’s why we do it. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.”
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