Nate Holland breaks down competition in Sochi
All eyes are on American Nate Holland with regard to the men’s snowboard cross event, and for good reason.
Holland is a champion in this discipline, however he has never won gold at the Olympics. Instead, it has been his two-time teammate on Team USA Seth Wescott taking the Olympic glory, but this year Wescott will not be seen competing in Sochi.
Now, Holland has his chance to truly shine, as he typically does, so it is high time you get to know him.
Here’s a handful of questions from an interview that was had with Holland directly following his test runs for the Games, from which he was able to provide feedback on the snowboard cross course. Holland is a man of humility, so he may not toot his own horn too often, but he does toot that of those around him. Get to know Holland as well as the rest of his top competitors below.
NBCOlympics.com: Let’s talk about snowboard cross. How does an event like this compare to when it is hosted at an event like X Games?
Nate Holland: They are very similar in the way that they are both huge races. A lot of big crowds, a lot of publicity, a lot of media and just a lot of energy, and I like those. You have to rise to the occasion and feed off that energy. Luckily I’ve learned how to do that.
The course at an X Games and the Olympics are pretty similar, too, in the way that they spare no expense in building big features and invest in blowing snow. Today, I was able to test the course for the first time. Myself and teammate Alex Deibold guinea pigged it and there needs to be some slight changes but that is the deal with any course; really easy changes. It’s intimidating at first, but once you run it a few times you’re like, ‘alright, I got this.’
It’s going to be a blast.
Embedded video_content_type: The rise and falls of Nate Holland
Now, let’s compare an event like this to one such as the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom or a Dirksen Derby.
They are basically polar opposites as competitions go. I grew up in the Northwest, in Idaho, and the Banked Slalom was the Olympics to me as a kid growing up. I remember just checking results as a kid — you’d have to wait like a month later until the results came out in a magazine or you’d hear when someone came back from it, can’t just jump online the same day. That is really grass roots.
When I go there, I wax my own snowboard. You are hanging out; there are no coaches, there is no support, it’s just you and that is killer for me. It brings me back to when I was 15 years old and competing. Here, you have a huge support net and huge crowds; there’s a decent crowd at Baker, but it’s rootsy. There is no security lines or anything, it’s just good people throwing a killer contest.
I was freeriding here the other day and thinking about those guys freeriding at Baker. A 12-hour time change on the exact opposite side of the world, it’s pretty cool to think that I got homies over there shredding and I’m shredding. I had to send them a little good luck tweet to all the racers and let them know that I am thinking about them. 'With love from mother Russia.'
So, you touched on that you wax your own board when you are at something like a Banked Slalom. Do you have Andy Buckley waxing your board at this kind of a contest?
Would you want to talk about the importance of a proper wax job?
A proper wax job will make or break you as a racer. It has to be spot-on.
Growing up, luckily, I had lots of practice waxing my own stuff. Then you get to a certain level racing the Olympics and World Cups or X Games; it’s nice to have a wax man. That is one portion of racing that I don’t have to think about while I’m here. [Buckley] is trusted. He’s proven. He’s got all my boards and, depending on snow conditions, he will bring me out certain boards and I’ll give him a little bit of feedback, but every time I step on an Andy Buckley wax job, it’s one slick ride.
When I wax at Baker I know that feeling of a professional wax job, and I only strive to be as good as he is.
I’ve talked to a few other people and it doesn’t sound like anyone is too informed about how he does it. Does he have any tricks up his sleeve? Is there anything secretive about what he is doing?
If there is anything secretive, I’m sure not going to share it. [laughs]
He’s got the magic. Some people have it, some people don’t. I know one thing he does; he puts in the hours. That’s why I like working with him so much. I feel like I put in the hours and try to leave no stone left unturned, and he’s got that same work ethic. There’s some wax techs that do just enough and they are successful with just enough, but I like his work ethic of above and beyond. Then, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out you have nothing to blame it on. You gave it all you’ve got.
There’s a little mix-up in the competition field this year with Wescott not going to be around. What are your thoughts on the competition at this year’s Olympics?
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.
With that said, Wescott isn’t here and it’s a bummer. I’m was bummed when I heard he blew his knee, and he did everything to get here but it was just too soon for him. He’s riding well right now, but there’s a lot of little things that we do to get those tenths and hundredths of seconds. When we knew that he wasn’t going to make it, he gave me a big high-five and to bring gold home to the U.S. ‘Go get it Holland.’ Right after X Games. I feel that there is a burden to bring the medal home. There’s been two Olympics; Wescott has gotten those two and I’m going to try everything in my power to bring it home.
Embedded video_content_type: U.S. Olympian Nick Baumgartner looks to represent Michigan in Sochi
I’m going to say you are a favorite for this event. Outside of the U.S. - we know American Nick Baumgartner is a top-runner - who else would you say is a favorite?
Markus Schairer from Austria is always a huge threat. There’s a grip of Italian riders that are young and hungry; they are going to try anything possible on the course no matter if they are in or out of control. Canadians are always rolling. There are three Canadians I could see doing well. Stian Sivertzen from Norway. Big guy, great guy, probably the nicest guy on the tour and he’s been riding super well. Then, a couple Aussies; Jarryd Hughes, he’s a young kid — we call him the cocky kangaroo.
Then Alex Pullin who’s the two-time world champion but he hasn’t been racing. I think he’s been holding out waiting for this event and I think that is a horrible strategy. It takes time to get used to riding in a pack of guys. You can ride the course by yourself all day long, but if you are not riding in a pack with a bunch of guys around you — it’s some next level stuff. You know, he is fast. He’s damn good. I don’t really agree with his strategy of not racing to not get hurt, but who knows.
I’m liking the course and I’m liking my odds here. Yeah, I’m digging it.
Anything to say about [Team USA’s] Trevor Jacob? He’s switched up out of the halfpipe and now has qualified for snowboard cross.
Yeah, Trevor is full young, talented and kind of a wild card. He doesn’t have a lot of experience racing and as someone that does I can see that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he does well.
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