KRASNAYA, POLYANA, Russia — Vic Wild has cemented his place in snowboard history, and in far more ways than one. Let’s count the accomplishments that began on Wednesday and culminated on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Wild won the parallel giant slalom event, which made him the first Russian to win a gold medal ever in snowboarding. Simultaneously, his wife won bronze in the same event, making them the second married couple to earn medals in the same event at a Winter Olympics — the other was in figure skating, which Wild laughed off as “cheating.”
Then came Saturday when he competed in the first-ever Olympic parallel slalom event, a new addition to the Olympic program for Sochi. Wild won gold, again. The second gold meant he was not only the first-ever gold medalist in the new sport, but also the first Russian snowboarder to now win two medals in snowboarding. Additionally, he was the first snowboarder to clinch two medals at a single Games – both of which ended up being gold.
“That’s just crazy, I didn’t know about any of that. This is just beyond anything I could ever hope for,” said Wild, truly stunned and struggling to find the words to equate to his accomplishments. “I don’t know. I really don’t know… I made it, man. Everything worked my way.”
Still floored, Wild was truly at a loss. His goals had been realized. His dreams were now reality, and then some.
“This is way more than a dream come true. I never ever dreamed of one gold medal, and now to have two. No words.”
Wild is an interesting character. Born in the state of Washington, Wild was unable to find the support he needed to continue snowboarding competitively in the States. He nearly hung up his competitive hardboots for good.
Fortunately for him, and the sport, he was dating a Russian snowboarder, Alena Zavarzina, who posed the idea of getting married, moving to Russia and keeping his Olympic dreams alive. They did just that. Wild quickly turned his snowboard career around with her support and that of his newfound home country.
Thank you Zavarzina!
However, his wife was not the only key player to Wild’s success.
Riding for Team USA was his good friend of many years Justin Reiter, and despite riding against each other in competition the two actually work together.
“He coaches me in between my runs. I’d have to guess that it would be way more difficult to win the last two days without his help,” said Wild gratefully and excited to speak to the value of Reiter. “He’s there for me. He knows a lot about snowboarding, a lot more than all of the coaches because he’s doing it and has been for a long time. He’s the man. I definitely owe him a lot.”
Unfortunately for the lone American representative Reiter, he was eliminated following his first run in qualifying after riding his board slightly over a gate, rather than around it. Reiter earned second at the 2013 World Championships and was considered a medal contender at the event in Sochi.
Despite his circumstances, Reiter wanted to stick around the event and do everything he could for his long time friend.
Before Wild’s final run, Reiter was spotted giving him his last bit of confidence, motivation and strategy with regard to how they saw and felt the course to be riding.
“[We were] basically just talking about course reports. I was trying to keep him focused, keeping him as solid as a friend can and just trying to be there for him,” said Reiter, wearing his striped and starred helmet.
Reiter went on to speak to Wild’s initial decision to make the move from the States to Russia as a way to continue his career, saying, “We spent a lot of time talking about it and I’ve supported his decision ever since the beginning. It was a great opportunity and I’m stoked he took it.”
A true friend indeed.
From his wife, his good friend and of course his new home country of Russia, Wild has had quite the support system around him following the lack thereof while striving to make it work in the States.
When hypothetically asked if he would return to race for Team USA if approached, he took absolutely no hesitation in saying, “no. These people took care of me. I’m going to continue riding here for the next four years and hopefully make the team again to win more medals for them in [South] Korea.”
With or without that support system, in the end it was Wild that laid the assault on the various slalom courses at the Sochi Games, but he would be remiss if he didn’t attribute some of that success to all those that made it happen. Wild will surely be remembered in the world of snowboarding indefinitely.