Jacobellis braced for assault on Olympic gold
Though regarded as one of the greatest snowboard cross champions in history, reigning five-time world champion Lindsey Jacobellis is still waiting for her first taste of Olympic glory. Will her time finally come at PyeongChang 2018, her fourth Winter Games appearance?
Born in Danbury (USA), not far from the mountains of Vermont, Jacobellis was 10 when she was introduced to snowboarding by her older brother, at Stratton Mountain ski resort in 1996.
The American excelled in halfpipe before turning her attention to snowboard cross (SBX), a sport that came into being in North America in the early 1990s and which made its major competition debut at the 1997 X Games.
Jacobellis was 15 when she made her first X Games appearance, and has kicked on to become the most successful athlete in its history, winning 10 SBX titles between 2003 and 2016. She also has five FIS World Championship crowns to her name, won between 2005 and 2017, and two World Cup titles (2007 and 2009) in her signature event.
By the start of 2017/18 season the American had racked up a grand total of 28 World Cup victories and 48 podium finishes, statistics that have contributed to her becoming one of the most eminent figures in SBX’s short history.
Jacobellis was a 20-year-old world No. 1 when her discipline made its Olympic debut at Turin in 2006. Determined to prove she was in a class of her own, the American boarder sailed through the heats and made a fast start in the four-rider final.
Way out in front as she approached the penultimate jump, Jacobellis attempted a method grab but lost her balance as she landed and fell, a few short metres from the line. Her untimely slip allowed Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden to steal past her and become the event’s first Olympic champion.
The American, who had to be content with the silver medal, later admitted she had got caught up in the moment: “I was having fun. Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead and I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd.”
Success also proved elusive for Jacobellis at Vancouver 2010, where she came fifth overall after landing a jump badly in the semi-final and making contact with a gate, an automatic disqualification. She fared no better at Sochi 2014, trailing in seventh after crashing out when leading her semi-final race.
A fresh chance at PyeongChang 2018
Despite her Olympic travails, Jacobellis has made her considerable mark on every other front.
World titles four and five respectively came her way in Kreischberg (AUT) in 2015 and Sierra Nevada (ESP) in 2017, when she commented: “Every year, it gets harder and harder because the level with women keeps increasing. I want to be remembered as someone who is supporting that next, younger generation as well as continuing to raise the bar.”
She did just that in the opening event of the 2017/18 Olympic season, held in Cerro Catedral (ARG) in September, when she overcame reigning Olympic champion Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic and France’s Chloé Trespeuch, a bronze medallist at Sochi in 2014.
“The sport is constantly evolving, and it’s something that I still want to be a part of and I love doing,” says the American, explaining why she continues to compete into her 30s. “I know I have more life in this sport. I don’t want to just stop for any apparent reason. I want to almost do it until I cannot do it anymore.”
Jacobellis knows what to expect at PyeongChang 2018, having taken part in the first Olympic test event on the Bokwang cross course in February 2016. The American placed in the final, which was won by Trespeuch.
“I was really excited to go to PyeongChang for the test event,” she adds. “It was a big X Games style course – a lot of drafting, a lot of speed, and a lot of time to capitalise on riders making mistakes and passing, so I think that will definitely play to my strengths.”
As she prepares for a fourth attempt to win Olympic gold, Jacobellis is not putting a date on her retirement just yet: “Still just taking one week at a time, one month at a time, just living the dream. I don’t like to look too far into the future because you’re missing what’s going on right now.
“I’ve made that mistake before in the past, where you’re too worried about what’s coming, and you’re not seeing what’s right in front of you.”