BONGPYEONG, South Korea — Trying for a fourth time to win an Olympic gold medal, American Lindsey Jacobellis finished just short of the podium in Friday’s women’s snowboard cross event.
In a frantic race with several lead changes, Jacobellis finished in fourth place, .03 seconds shy of bronze.
Italy’s Michele Moioli won gold.
For Jacobellis, the disappointment continues a career that is the sport’s most prominent — but has also been defined by its setbacks.
Jacobellis easily won a six-person quarterfinal heat, guaranteeing her place in the semis among the final 12 riders. Then, in the semis, Jacobellis and Czech rider Eva Samkova stayed ahead of the pack, clinching spots in the final.
Since the snowboard cross’ Olympic inception, Jacobellis has been the face of the sport. She is 32. She has won 10 X Games medals. She has won five of the last seven world championship titles.
But such is the way of the Olympics, and the way memory works, that the shorthand story of her career consists entirely of its lowlight. Twelve years ago, in Turin, she was cruising toward a gold medal. She tried to burnish the final seconds of the race with a showy move — a little midair twist, grabbing her board — but then suddenly she was skidding into the snow, landing back-down. “Oh what?” one of the broadcasters said, as another was saying, “a shocker on the homestretch!” A Swiss rider jumped ahead just before the finish line. Jacobellis came in second, bending over in disbelief. Her coach fell to the ground. She had won the silver medal, which in the context it happened felt like winning nothing. “As a snowboarder, I bow my head in shame,” she said.
Since that race, she has tried, in turns, to capture the one thing missing from her career — an Olympic gold — while telling herself that the gold medal doesn’t define her. She failed to medal in the next two subsequent Olympics, finishing fifth in 2010 and seventh in 2014, where she took a spill with a big lead in a semifinal race. In all those years since Turin, she has overcome serious injuries, including an anterior cruciate ligament tear in 2012. One of the people competing with Jacobellis on Friday was 4 years old at the time of Turin.
Those 2006 Olympics were the first time that snowboard cross was featured as an event. Such is the capricious nature of the sport — collisions, crashes, come-from-behind wins — that eight riders entering Friday had won the nine women’s medals.
Snowboard cross is a one-day event of pure mayhem, and on Friday a field of 25 narrowed was narrowed through a series of timed heats, for seeding, followed by a three-round tournament of six-person races. The course was 4/5 of a mile of snowy dips and jumps. As in speed skating, collisions are commonplace.
Two other Americans, Faye Gulini and Meghan Tierney, were also competing in Friday’s event. Both were knocked out in the quarterfinal round.