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Expat Vic Wild, wife delighted by rare medal double

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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.

RELATED: Husband/wife duo win medals in parallel giant slalom

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.

VIDEO: How did Wild and Zavarvina pull it off?

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.

RELATED: Snowboarder Vic Wild leaves U.S. to compete as Russian

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.

Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.