SOCHI, Russia – She is a new-age, yoga-loving, mantra-chanting snowboarder who came to the Olympics with a “medicine bundle” in her backpack and an 80-something “spirit grandma” originally from Bavaria along for the ride.
Jamie Anderson came to Russia armed with support and will leave with a precious object to put alongside her mantra beads and clear quartz power stone.
An Olympic gold medal.
Anderson completed a weekend sweep for the United States in the new slopestyle event, winning the women’s competition Sunday with an all-out performance in the second run, scoring 95.25, a run marked by clean landings. Enni Rukajarvi from Finland took the silver (92.50) and Jenny Jones of Britain the bronze (87.25), the first Olympic medal for her country on snow.
Jones, at 33 the oldest competitor in the final, was once a maid at a ski chalet. Wimbledon champion Andy Murray even joked, via Twitter, after her second run: “Jenny Jones! Is it wrong to hope everyone left falls?”
With Anderson’s victory coming a day after Sage Kotsenburg took gold on the men’s side, clearly the United States has claimed ownership of the slopestyle podium.
It could not have been a better script for U.S. snowboarding.
“Am I dreaming? Are you people real?” said Bill Enos, the U.S. slopestyle coach.
He touched the arm of a reporter in the mixed zone, saying: “Yes, oh, everyone here is real.”
The two American gold medalists are larger-than-life figures, almost an understatement if you spend time around them. Kotsenburg sprinkles his conversation with “sick” and “stoked,” and the 23-year-old Anderson, who is one of eight children, is more likely to sprinkle the room with sacred energy and inspirational messages.
“She’s a bit of a hippie from Tahoe,” Jones said.
“Cali love all the way,” Anderson said in the interview room.
Anderson and Jones had some fun give-and-take and even high-fived at one point. Jones asked Anderson if she understood the thick accent of one Scottish reporter.
The veteran snowboarders dealt with the Olympic pressure in different ways the night before the final. Anderson has won the X Games four times but she soon realized the Olympics were on a massively different level.
Anderson was asked if she dealt with the stress of the last 24 hours by listening to music, lighting candles or meditating.
“All of the above. I was just talking about that,” she said. “Last night, I was so nervous. I couldn’t even eat. I was trying to calm down. Put on some meditation music, burn some sage. Got the candles going. Just trying to do a little bit of yoga.”
Jones: “I knew it. I knew the yoga was going to come in.”
Anderson: “Yoga always comes through for me.”
Jones: “Actually last night I watched ‘Downton Abbey.’”
The light moments should not undercut the fearlessness of the female snowboarders. The challenging course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park took its toll in training. Anderson crashed last week and the top medal contender on the men’s side withdrew after suffering a broken collarbone.
In Sunday’s final, Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic crashed hard in her second run and hit her head but was able to leave the course under her own power.
Enos thought Anderson was “a little impatient” at one point but corrected it for the second run, saying: “Then she stomped it.”
“Jamie’s obviously been the most dominant women’s snowboarder in history in the slopestyle venues here,” said Mike Jankowski, the head coach for U.S. snowboarding and U.S. freeskiing. “But you can come in as the favorite, you can come in as the best athlete with all these accolades and awards and medals behind you in the past. What matters is those 45 seconds when you drop in to the course and when you make it to the finish.
“That’s the most important time to cement your place and your legacy. And that’s what she did today and I could not be more proud of her.”
Supporting Anderson at the Olympics were her five sisters, brother, parents and her “spirit grandma.”
The latter figure came into Anderson’s life when the two became a neighbors in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Anderson said the woman didn’t like her at first. The spiritual Anderson won her over.
“We’ve really connected,” Anderson said. “She didn’t have any kids. Her husband passed away quite a few years ago, so we’ll hang out, have dinner, go for walks.
“She told me she’s coming to the Olympics and she’s in her mid-80s. She made it here all the way.”