KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Nate Holland got too high on the course. Trevor Jacob went too low.
America’s best two snowboard cross riders experienced mishaps on a rainy Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
But Alex Deibold of Manchester, Vt., who served as a wax technician at the Vancouver Games, safely navigated the crash-inducing course to win the bronze medal by holding off France’s Paul-Henri De Le Rue for third place.
Pierre Vaultier of France won the gold medal, followed by Nikolay Olyunin of Russia in a wild actions-sports event postponed the previous day because of thick fog.
Holland, seven-times X Games champion from Sandpoint, was not in a celebratory mood after getting eliminated in the first heat by jumping too high while in good position to advance.
It was a frustrating moment, considering Holland is one of the greatest snowboard cross riders in history. He tossed his board and held his hands to his head.
Few could blame Holland. He suffered crashes in two previous Olympics when in good position to either win a medal or advance to the final.
Tuesday was expected to be Holland’s golden moment under laden sky.
“There’s something about these Olympic rings, they give me a lot of joy and drive and ambition, but they cause a lot of heartbreak,” he said.
Holland arrived at the souped-in mountain feeling good about his chances despite returning to competition two months ago after fracturing his shoulder.
It seemed that way as he and Jacob took a commanding lead in the first elimination round. But Holland caught Jacob’s draft on a big jump midway down the run and just kept going.
“I knew I’d have to make the ground shake today on some landings,” he said. “I just didn’t know it was going to cause a fall.”
Holland, 35, came to a sudden stop as if he fell into quicksand. Two riders blew past. Holland’s chances went with them.
“It feels like your dog died, or something,” said Holland, fighting back tears.