Nate Holland looks to break through in snowboard cross for first gold
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The celebration was in full force at the bottom of the hill.
Seth Wescott had won his second straight Olympic gold medal, staging an out-of-nowhere comeback over Canadian Mike Robertson.
In third place, Toni Ramoin of France.
Nate Holland finished fourth.
"When I want to walk out of the gym these days, all I have to do is remember that feeling in the bottom of the course," Holland said. "The feeling when they asked me to step out of the corral because they needed to do the awards ceremony."
Embedded video_content_type: The rise and falls of Nate Holland
If he hasn't been the best overall snowboard cross rider over the past eight years, Holland has been among the best big-day riders in the sport. His seven Winter X Games titles, including the one he took last month, are proof. Yet his Olympic journeys have belied all that success. They have been filled with nothing but heartache.
While Lindsey Jacobellis, who endured another heartbreaker with her seventh-place finish Sunday, has been the poster child for America's frustration in Olympic snowboard cross, Holland has felt the same kind of pain.
Two trips. No wins. No hardware at all, in fact. He finished 14th at the Turin Games. Both times, his disappointment was overshadowed by Wescott's triumphs.
But a knee injury prevented Wescott from earning a chance at a third straight gold. Meanwhile, unlike Jacobellis, who tempers her enthusiasm for an event that has treated her cruelly, Holland doesn't mask his passion.
"An Olympic medal has been a goal of mine since 2004, when I heard boardercross was going to be in," Holland said. "That's 10 years I haven't been able to achieve that goal. You always want what you don't have and that's the one medal in my trophy case that's missing."
That Holland is here is a miracle of modern medicine, combined with some true grit.
The 35-year-old from Squaw Valley, Calif., broke his collarbone in December — sat in the same hospital room with Jacobellis, who had broken her thumb — and needed to heal in time to post a few strong results to make the team.
"I remember sitting there with her and we're laughing, saying, 'How are we going to do this?'" Holland said.
He made it, and now, he's not looking for just any kid of medal.
In a sport built on randomness and risk-taking, he's ready to push the envelope.
"If I'm sitting in second place and there's a dicey line, I'm going to go for it," he said. "I have no interest in a silver medal."
A look at five riders who might keep Holland out of the top spot:
MARKUS SCHAIRER: The Austrian is one of the best tacticians out there and always considered a threat. Finished 23rd at the last Olympics.
OMAR VISINTIN: The Italian leads the World Cup points race after a win and a third-place finish in back-to-back events in Andora last month.
TONY RAMOIN: Hasn't finished in the top 10 in a World Cup event since January 2013. But Olympic experience means something, and the man from France has bronze from Vancouver.
Embedded video_content_type: U.S. Olympian Nick Baumgartner looks to represent Michigan in Sochi
NICK BAUMGARTNER: An American who knows how to go head-to-head against Holland, he has no fear. Picked up one of the last spots on the ultra-competitive U.S. team.
JARRYD HUGHES: This Aussie rides with his country's most famous snowboarder, Torah Bright. He's second in the World Cup standings.
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