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Showboating Jacobellis misses out on snowboard cross gold

There are times when we remember the loser better than we remember the winner: the gallant faller, perhaps, or the favourite who couldn't live up to the expectation. And then there are those other memorable days, when an athlete who seems absolutely certain to win somehow finds a way not to.

Snowboard cross made its Olympic debut in Turin and was a huge success. Its blend of spectacle, competition and easy-to-understand rules brought a whole new audience to the sport. Perhaps they were also attracted by the bravado and cheery attitude of the athletes, who didn't seem to take themselves too seriously.

Among them was Lindsey Jacobellis, the 2005 world champions and someone who always wanted people to see she was having fun. She had made it into the final and appeared set for a gold medal. While Jacobellis was clear in the lead, Maëlle Ricker had crashed near the top and the other two athletes, Tanja Frieden and Dominique Maltais, had crossed each other, with Maltais running into the safety netting.

Jacobellis was around 40 metres clear in the lead, an incredible margin in a sport as closely fought as snowboard cross. The logical thing to do would have been to take it easy and ease across the finishing line to claim victory.

And yet perhaps that goes against the ethos of snowboarding. Jacobellis decided to throw in a trick – grabbing her board as she cleared the second-to-last jump – and it went wrong. She fell and a bemused Tanja Frieden, who had been well back in second place, swept past to win a gold that surprised everyone, including Frieden and Jacobellis.

She still took silver, with Maltais recovering from her run into the safety netting to claim bronze, but while Frieden's gold medal was a joy for her, it is Jacobellis's accident that people remember. “I forgot I still had to win the race,” admitted the American. “Snowboarding is fun and I was having fun.”

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