Jacobellis' return overshadowed by injuries
MONTAFON, Austria — Markus Schairer of Austria took the season-opening men's snowboard cross World Cup event Saturday for his fourth career win and first since March 2009, while Eva Samkova of Czech Republic won the women's race.
Schairer, who also led Friday's qualification, was the fastest starter in the final and stayed ahead of the field throughout the race. Winning gold this year was easier for Shairer due to the absence of reigning world champion Alex Pullin of Australia, who pulled out of the event due to a stiff back.
Last year's winner Omar Visintin of Italy came in second, while Kevin Hill of Canada finished third.
Schairer won three World Cup events and the world title in 2009, but had struggled with knee injuries since.
Earning her second career victory, Samkova defeated 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and world champion Dominique Maltais of Canada and Helene Olafsen of Norway in the women's final.
Referred to as "NASCAR on snow," snowboard cross' first U.S. Olympic qualifying event certainly lived up to its moniker.
American Jackie Hernandez was stretchered off the mountain after a fall in the final. Nate Holland didn't even make the qualifying round as he broke his collarbone in a training session, leaving his Olympic hopes in serious doubt. Holland's brother, Pat, did compete, finishing 47th. Their teammate, Nick Baumgartner, was disqualified when, according to FIS' Twitter feed, "he crashed out in his first heat with an avoidable mistake," finishing 43rd.
The most notable boarder crosser missing from the race was two-time gold medalist Seth Wescott, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
There were bright spots. Lindsey Jacobellis, who hasn't competed since injuring her left knee in January 2012, competed for the first time since then and finished seventh.
Australia's Torah Bright, who is attempting to qualify for boarder cross as a third Olympic discipline - she's already going to Sochi for snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle - finished 20th.
Additional reporting by Jason Stahl, NBCOlympics.com.
Best of Sochi