ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Lindsey Jacobellis looked at the final results and laughed. Not at the outcome, but at the birth years. Only one other rider – besides she and de ella teammate Nick Baumgartner – in the snowboardcross mixed team final was born in the 1980s.
All those younger snowboarders, well, they don’t have a gold medal.
Jacobellis and Baumgartner, who were by far the oldest pair, won event in its Olympic debut, used their experience to navigate snowy conditions and a changing course at Genting Snow Park on Saturday.
The win was the second for Jacobellis, 36, in the Beijing Games after she took her first individual gold on Wednesday.
“As an older athlete, it’s tough when the older kids start getting really fast and start trying to push you out and take what you want,” said Baumgartner, 40. “To come out here and perform the way we did being the oldest two competitors is pretty cool.”
The win gave Jacobellis her third Olympic medal in her fifth Games after also winning silver in 2006. Baumgartner, meanwhile, finished 10th in the men’s individual event here and won her first medal in her fourth Olympics.
“It’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to come and get a gold medal with a longtime teammate,” Jacobellis said. “We’ve definitely been through a lot and we’ve seen each other’s ups and downs and our struggles.”
The pair worked with teammates Faye Gulini and Jake Vedder to figure out the course, which had been covered after thick, wet snow had fallen throughout the morning and the competition. It slowed down the course, and the four worked with their coaches to determine the best lines.
Gulini and Vedder – both born in the 1990s – failed to advance out the quarterfinal.
Jacobellis and Baumgartner finished first in their quarterfinal heat and second to the top Italian team in the semifinal one to advance.
In the final, Baumgartner crossed the line first to give Jacobellis a .04-second head start on her leg. She dropped back to third early and shortly after she climbed to second, Canadian Meryeta Odine and Italian Caterina Carpano crashed behind her.
That left Jacobellis to catch Italy’s Michela Moioli, who at 26 was in primary school when Jacobellis joined the national team. Jacobellis took an inside line on a late curve to take the lead and, moments later, the win.
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“There’s just so many uncontrolled variables, and it’s so rare that you get the same circumstance. So it takes years to understand how to best execute certain situations,” Jacobellis said, “and you saw today how drastically the speed changed, and we had to completely change up our game plan. It’s just being able to pivot and make those kind of decisions and call the audible and figure it out.”
As Baumgartner waited for Jacobellis at the base of the course, he shouted for her to use her experience. The veteran rider did, pulling ahead of the Italian who had been slightly faster in the semifinal.
When it mattered, when a gold medal was on the line, Jacobellis dug into that reservoir of races, starts and snowy days to help deliver a win for herself and her longtime friend.
“There’s no other snowboard event that you could be competitive at 40 years old, and now, not only competitive, but we were the ones to beat today,” Baumgartner said. “So it’s awesome.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism