Former Steamboat rider wins gold again
Krasnaya Polyana, Russia — Thedo Remmelink sat at the bottom of the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park and shared hugs with Vic Wild’s parents and family.
Immediately he was swarmed, reporting recorders feet from his face, documenting something Remmelink, the Pro-Am Race head coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Wild’s former coach, has spent the better part of the last six years fighting.
Yes, there was pride for Wild, who became the late story of the Olympics. His becoming a Russian citizen two years ago after marrying Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina, providing him full funding, opportunities for endless training, full support staff and, on Saturday, another gold medal.
With the win in the parallel slalom, he became the first athlete to win two snowboard gold medals at a single Olympics.
His plight in the sport, and success, have been a sore spot on the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
Bottom line is Wild was the most decorated American at the 2014 Olympic Games. But he did it for Russia.
“It was for the opportunity to continue snowboarding, so I chose to continue snowboarding because I thought I could do something special,” said Wild, who came out of retirement to snowboard for Russia. “No more of this stuff that I see about me leaving for something better. I was leaving so I could continue. That’s all.”
But even Wild admitted that the Russian Federation gave him the best opportunity to reach this level.
It’s something that Remmelink, and the only U.S. Alpine rider here Justin Reiter, have battled for years.
After the last Olympics, the U.S. Alpine snowboarding team was disbanded. At those games in Vancouver, Tyler Jewell was the only American on the team.
Chris Klug, a bronze medalist in 2002, was livid with the USSA’s non-funding. He wasn’t named to the team in 2010, though he won the U.S. Championship, so he started his own.
He got sponsorship from Hooter’s and formed America’s Snowboard Team.
It wasn’t the first look at underfunding, but it was the biggest at the time.
“It took a lot of the enjoyment of the sport away from me,” Remmelink said. “We definitely got toughened in that situation.”
Although slalom wasn’t his best event, Wild again was great Saturday.
In his semifinal against Austria’s Ben Karl, Wild was 1.12 seconds behind after the first run. The time seemed almost insurmountable.
But after a slick top section and more speed through the flats, Wild erased the deficit and advanced.
Remmelink, who has 20 riders in his program in Steamboat, said Wild got most of his basic fundamentals in Steamboat at Howelsen Hill. No doubt, Remmelink said, the move to Russia and its funded training was a big part of the reason Wild stood atop the podium twice.
What this does with the USSA and sport remain a mystery. The crowds on Thursday and Saturday at the two events were among the best at any Olympic venue.
The fact that an American — one with strong ties to Steamboat that comes back every year and still trains there — became the most decorated Olympian at these Games would appear to be a good sign.
The fact, though, that the American did it for Russia presents a whole other bag of problems.
“It’s a double feeling still,” Remmelink said. “I’m proud of Vic. But on the other hand, I’d rather have our own national team with Vic on it, dominating the way he did today.”
Other SSWSC riders can’t advance
Two other Winter Sports Club riders, Canada’s Caroline Calve and the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka struggled Saturday.
Calve couldn’t advance out of the preliminary round.
Ledecka, a medal favorite coming in, battled back issues all during the Olympics. She qualified second on Saturday but was knocked out in the quarterfinals.
“She had a really great season and the whole prep was great,” Remmelink said. “Just before the Olympics, she got a back issue. Today, she could barely buckle her boots.”
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