KRASNAYA, POLYANA, Russia — Stunned to learn this was only the second time in Winter Olympic history that a husband and wife had earned a medal in the same event, the first reaction: “Is that true?”
Disbelief came over the face of Alena Zavarzina of Russia and she was instantly at a loss of words standing next to her husband, double-taking at the scene around her to ensure it was in fact reality.
Vic Wild, an American-born snowboarder hailing from the state of Washington but now competing alongside Zavarzina for a different red, white and blue, had a more comical response upon learning the entirety of the historical news: “It was figure skating? That’s cheating,” he laughed.
Wild and Zavarzina do everything together.
“We do too much together,” joked Wild.
They train, travel and compete together and it is clear that they have more than just chemistry; they have a little bit of magic.
Neither athlete was necessarily expected to podium in Wednesday’s snowboarding parallel giant slalom (PGS) event. Zavarzina placed 17th back at the Vancouver Olympics and Wild had a record that was less than favorable coming into the Sochi Games.
Wild did however post a top-five finish at a World Cup PGS event in January, boosting his resume a bit leading into the Games. Meanwhile, Zavarzina broke her arm at an event that same month and required surgery. In her first event back, she placed only 22nd.
Never again will the duo fly under the radar.
Zavarzina, still competing with a brace on her left arm, rode with a confidence and familiarity with her board that she has acquired throughout her entire life. As a child, she began to snowboard because her mother’s friend had set up a snowboard school, and despite wanting to ski, she made the decision to become the town’s “little snowboard girl” and began to hone her skills. On Wednesday that little snowboard girl won a bronze medal.
Wild literally stunned all with his riding in the event. Round after round he proved he was the one to beat, only falling behind in a single run, the first of his final, where he managed to overcome a half-second deficit to earn the first medal for Russia in PGS — and a gold at that.
Oddly enough, that gold could have just as easily been the first for Wild’s native-born country of the United States had he found more support a few years back.
For three years Wild rode for the U.S. team, but was forced to cut ties with the team because in his words, “their focus was in other areas.”
When it began to look like his professional snowboarding stint was coming to a close, Zavarzina offered another option.
“I didn’t want him to quit. I wanted him to keep chasing his dream,” said the emotional Zavarzina, still taking in the moment.
The two were married, allowing Wild the opportunity to train and ride for the Russian snowboard team. He even felt at home, mentioning that because he looks Russian, people think he is – until he speaks.
Wild harvested no hard feelings whatsoever towards his native country, saying the problem he ran into, lack of funding and support, “had nothing to do with the United States, it had something to do with a nonprofit organization.”
“We’ve all got to get what we need,” said the relaxed Wild.
As the Games drew near, Wild received an outpouring of support from his friends back home across Washington.
“It made me feel so comfortable knowing all my friends actually cared, I didn’t know they cared. It kind of makes you realize you had already done something special by being here. I had already won today before I had even started. That probably gave me the ability to relax and ride well.”
In the end it wasn’t a medal won for his home country, but it was indeed won in part by the support of it.