Lindsey Jacobellis flew into the frigid Italian atmosphere
as a celebrated and admired snowboarding superstar but, after
an adrenalin-fueled grab at her board in mid-flight, she returned
to earth in a meteoric flameout destined to make her a lock
for membership in the sports Bonehead Hall of Fame. But her
gaffe also represents a watershed moment for a sport once typified
by such actions.
Snowboarding is a serious sport populated by serious athletes.
Participants in competitions throughout the world work and train
and sacrifice to race and win and be recognized as the best
in their sport. But the ascension of snowboarding from a wild,
rebellious and carefree winter activity to a corporately-sponsored,
mainstream, Olympic-level competition has resulted in attitudes
and expectations that are radically divergent from the once-radical
personality that dominated the sport.
Lindsey Jacobellis began snowboarding in rural Roxbury, CT when
she was 10-years old. Coached by her older brother, Ben, Lindsey
was forced to compete against boys since there was no girls'
division for the sport. This co-ed racing helped her develop
a highly competitive spirit. Leading up to the Olympics she
trained with the American men since she is the only U.S. woman
competing in snowboard cross. She is, quite simply, the best
women's snowboard cross racer in the world. But, as a result
of her fall in the Italian Alps, she will not be an Olympic
champion in 2006.
What Lindsey Jacobellis will be, to many, is a showboating hot
dog. She will be derided for being cocky, over-confidant and
foolish. One television reporter stated that Lindsey had left
a "blemish on the sport of snowboarding." Another said that
the "nation's hope for a gold medal" in this event rested "solely
on her shoulders." Her agent is probably on suicide watch after
seeing his dreams of gold medal endorsement deals get swept
away in an avalanche of shattered dreams.
And how does Lindsey feel about all of this? "I went for the
jump because I was having fun," she said. "Snowboarding is fun,
and I wanted to share that with the crowd. ... I was caught
up in the moment and forgot that I had to race."
Poor Lindsey. Doesn't she realize that competing at this level
is not supposed to be fun? That getting "caught up in the moment"
was a reckless, selfish and careless demonstration of naÔve
exuberance? How could Lindsey have been so irresponsible that
she would have allowed the thrill of flying down a frosty hill,
free, fast and in first-place by a snowboarding mile, to be
manifested in a flamboyant maneuver for which snowboarders used
to be hailed?
"Used to be..." That is the operative phrase at the moment.
Snowboarding has come of age. Millions are watching world-class
athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze. Fame and fortune
await the winners. Only memories of a temporary place on the
world stage await the rest. But Lindsey Jacobellis will forever
straddle the chasm between Olympic winners and Olympic losers.
She now carries the weight of Olympic silver around her neck
and the stigma of Olympic failure on her competitive resume.
By her self-inflicted disaster, Lindsey Jacobellis has elevated
snowboarding to a premier winter sport. No longer will the freewheeling,
high-flying, "hey dude, watch this," X Game-style mentality
apply to competitive snowboarding. It's about winning and money
and national honor and endorsements. Getting ramped up and having
fun are no longer permissible attitudes for the sport.
Dude, this is serious!
About the author:
J. Terrence (Terry) McDermott does not ski nor can he snowboard.
He does, however, manage a website that offers tons of ski and
snowboard equipment at
. If he did snowboard, he hopes that he would share the same
healthy perspective that Lindsey Jacobellis has so far demonstrated.