Lindsey Jacobellis flew into the frigid Italian atmosphere as a celebrated and admired snowboarding superstar but, after an adrenalin-fueled grab at her board in mid-flight, she returned to earth in a meteoric flameout destined to make her a lock for membership in the sports Bonehead Hall of Fame. But her gaffe also represents a watershed moment for a sport once typified by such actions. Snowboarding is a serious sport populated by serious athletes.
Participants in competitions throughout the world work and train and sacrifice to race and win and be recognized as the best in their sport. But the ascension of snowboarding from a wild, rebellious and carefree winter activity to a corporately-sponsored, mainstream, Olympic-level competition has resulted in attitudes and expectations that are radically divergent from the once-radical personality that dominated the sport. Lindsey Jacobellis began snowboarding in rural Roxbury, CT when she was 10-years old. Coached by her older brother, Ben, Lindsey was forced to compete against boys since there was no girls' division for the sport. This co-ed racing helped her develop a highly competitive spirit. Leading up to the Olympics she trained with the American men since she is the only U.
S. woman competing in snowboard cross. She is, quite simply, the best women's snowboard cross racer in the world. But, as a result of her fall in the Italian Alps, she will not be an Olympic champion in 2006.
What Lindsey Jacobellis will be, to many, is a showboating hot dog. She will be derided for being cocky, over-confidant and foolish. One television reporter stated that Lindsey had left a "blemish on the sport of snowboarding." Another said that the "nation's hope for a gold medal" in this event rested "solely on her shoulders.
" Her agent is probably on suicide watch after seeing his dreams of gold medal endorsement deals get swept away in an avalanche of shattered dreams. And how does Lindsey feel about all of this? "I went for the jump because I was having fun," she said. "Snowboarding is fun, and I wanted to share that with the crowd. . I was caught up in the moment and forgot that I had to race." Poor Lindsey.
Doesn't she realize that competing at this level is not supposed to be fun? That getting "caught up in the moment" was a reckless, selfish and careless demonstration of na´ve exuberance? How could Lindsey have been so irresponsible that she would have allowed the thrill of flying down a frosty hill, free, fast and in first-place by a snowboarding mile, to be manifested in a flamboyant maneuver for which snowboarders used to be hailed? "Used to be." That is the operative phrase at the moment. Snowboarding has come of age. Millions are watching world-class athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze. Fame and fortune await the winners. Only memories of a temporary place on the world stage await the rest.
But Lindsey Jacobellis will forever straddle the chasm between Olympic winners and Olympic losers. She now carries the weight of Olympic silver around her neck and the stigma of Olympic failure on her competitive resume. By her self-inflicted disaster, Lindsey Jacobellis has elevated snowboarding to a premier winter sport.
No longer will the freewheeling, high-flying, "hey dude, watch this," X Game-style mentality apply to competitive snowboarding. It's about winning and money and national honor and endorsements. Getting ramped up and having fun are no longer permissible attitudes for the sport. Dude, this is serious! .
By: Terry McDermott