Seth Wescott (USA) has claimed the Gold medal in the men's Olympic snowboard cross race. The US boy celebrated his 2nd straight Gold medal by relegating Canada's Mike Robertson and French young gun Tony Ramoin to the second and third rank respectively. His team mate Nate Holland, who had been battling for Gold until his riding mistake, had to settle for fourth.
Although Wescott is the second snowboarder in the history of this still young Olympic discipline to clinch a back-to-back title thus joining Switzerland's Philipp Schoch, who accomplished this feat in the parallel giant slaloms in 2002 and 2006, the 33-years-old didn't look that comfortable with the course after an up-and-down time trials and a slow start in the final heat.
Outstanding race to catch-up by Wescott
But after half of the run, when Nate Holland had gone down after duelling for the lead with Mike Robertson, the Kingfield, ME, resident put it all together and proved once again that he is simply Mr. Major Event. First he snatched Tony Ramoin, who finally earned another Bronze medal for France after Paul-Henri Delerue did so in Torino four years ago, then he passed Mike Robertson, who seemed to ride to a safe second ever snowboard Gold for his home country.
"The trials didn't go so well. I knew I would be fighting from the bad gate. I was in fourth. Nate (Holland) went down, I reeled in Tony (Ramoin), drove his inside. Mike (Robertson) braked, and I went in" Westcott said. And just like in 2006, when the 2005 Snowboard Cross World Champion brought home his first Olympic title, he made the move for Gold right in front of the last turn, blasting by Robertson and finally leading towards the last jumps. He simply found the best line in the bottom section of the selective and tricky course, a fact runner-up Robertson confirmed.
"The start is definitely key and the finish. I had the start, but I didn't have the finish today. I just missed the landing on one of the jumps a little bit and he (Westcott) just nailed everything perfectly" the 24-years-old summarized.
Dramas on the course
Besides all enthralling duels in the race for the medals, some drama took place in the heats before where a lot of Olympic dreams burst like bubbles. Top-qualifier Alex Pullin crashed down in his eighth final while being in a comfortable lead thus missing the first ever Olympic snowboard medal for Australia.
But he wasn't the only one to go down due to unforced errors. Xavier Delerue, one of the top bets for a podium finish missed a gate while leading his heat. His team mate Pierre Vaultier, the dominating man of the World Cup season so far who won four out of five snowboard cross races, was knocked out in his quarter final due to a crash of Canada's Drew Neilson which forced him to hit the brakes.
And also Mario Fuchs threw away the chance for a medal in the semi finals when he oversaw a bump, caught the wrong edge and drifted away.
Snowboard cross - once again an Olympic must-have-seen
But besides those crashes and personal dramas, the first snowboard competition of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was perfect advertising for the sport.
Close head-to-head duels including several tight photo finishes, a lot of passing along the course with a lot of comebacks from last position to the lead, incredible riding skills and venturesome athletes who enjoyed the ride of their life's in front of an amazing crowd underlined that snowboarding can be once again the star on the snow - just like in Torino in 2006 and that snowboarding is quite rightly part of the Olympic family.