The hype surrounding this race was sky-high – for snowboard fans the world over – to see if she could redeem herself from setbacks at the two previous Winter Olympics.
A favorite to win a Sochi Olympics medal, Jacobellis was on her way to a semifinal victory, having built a three-second lead. But, near the end of the race, she lost her balance while flying off a kicker, and tumbled down the course. Unlike the Torino Games, she did not showboat this jump.
An overwhelming sympathetic groan coursed through the stands, as thousands of spectators witnessed the other boarders speeding past her.
Regaining her composure, she resumed racing down the remaining few hundred meters. At the finish corral, she raised her arms in a frustrating “what just happened?” motion.
Great question! During the time-trial qualifiers, she was the second fastest racer, just behind the leader Czech Republic’s Eva Samkova, and ahead of the two elite Canadians: Torino 2006 Olympics bronze medalist Dominique Maltais, and Vancouver 2010 Olympics gold medalist Maelle Ricker.
These top seeds then led the 24-athlete field assigned to four, six-man pools - much more dangerous and exciting than the four-man pools in the past Olympics
The boarders raced down the obstacle laden course – stoked with challenging kickers, rollers, and step berms. With elbows flying and boards banging, these athletes would out-maneuver each other down this speedy run.
The 28-year-old Jacobellis won her quarterfinal race handily and the odds of landing on the podium increased as Ricker fell down in her pool, and missed advancing.
Wearing the leader’s red jersey, Jacobellis seized the hole shot right from the start of her semifinal race, setting the stage for an unimpeded run - until her fall.
The top three boarders in each semifinal advance to the medal round. With two favorites out of the running, the door was wide open for others to land on the podium – including teammate Faye Guilin.
In the final race, the speedy Samkova darted through the course – challenging the others to overtake her.
She crossed the finish line, ahead of the trailing Maltais, and France’s Chole Trespeuch who rounded-out the podium. Gulini raced to a commendable fourth place finish.
Similar to a Vancouver, Jacobellis competed in the consolation final, where she defeated the other semi-final also-rans.
Jacobellis complacently said, “I treated this event just like any other. Just so happens it’s how the wheel turns.”
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