Quite Simply, an Olympic-Size Blunder

Jacobellis Crashes Before Finish Line
American Lindsey Jacobellis was well ahead before falling in her next-to-last jump. She scrambled to her feet in time to win the silver. (Lionel Cironneau - AP)

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

BARDONECCHIA, Italy, Feb. 17 -- Alone in the clear, Lindsey Jacobellis could have practically crawled to the finish line and won.

After an Olympic-sized flub, she probably wishes she had.

Coasting to what should have been a runaway victory Friday, the 20-year-old American grabbed her board on the second-to-last jump before the finish line. Inexplicably -- and some say inexcusably -- she fell.

"I was caught up in the moment," Jacobellis said.

While she scrambled to her feet, Switzerland's Tanja Frieden caught up and sped past Jacobellis to become the first champion in the strange and wild sport of Olympic women's snowboard cross. Jacobellis settled for silver.

Then, the debate began.

"She definitely styled that a little too hard," U.S. snowboarding coach Peter Foley said, after looking at a frame-by-frame breakdown of the jump taken by photographers.

Jacobellis was so far ahead as she approached the fateful jump that Frieden couldn't even be seen in the early frames of the photo breakdown.

So, the question is, should Jacobellis have gone for the so-called "backside method grab" she attempted at the end -- a trick she rarely tries and one that included a flashy 60-degree twist right in front of the grandstands?

To many, it was blatant hot-dogging. In the moments after the race, Jacobellis insisted it was pretty much standard operating procedure and that she did it only to "create stability."

A few hours later, in a conference call, she held to that point, but also conceded there might have been some showboating going on.

"I was having fun," she said. "Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens."

She went tumbling after the jump, which she had executed cleanly in her four previous runs through qualifying and the early rounds of finals.

Foley fell to the ground in shock. Jacobellis's family and friends, dressed in funky red-white-and-blue hats in the stands, stared at the finish line with their mouths agape.

"She just tweaked it too hard," Foley said after looking at the photos. "Definite styling on that jump. That's a good stable grab but she pulled it across too far, definitely, for it to be safe."

She didn't feel her finish -- the Lindsey Leap -- reflected poorly on Americans.

"I don't think that at all," she said. "Just because we win a lot doesn't mean we're showboating."

Snowboarding Women's Snowboard Cross G: Tanja Frieden, Switzerland S: Lindsey Jacobellis, U.S. B: Dominique Maltais, Canada Next Event Wednesday, men's parallel giant slalom (NBC, 4-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.)


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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