In one of the most surprising results of any Olympic sport this season, American Trevor Jacob won a World Cup snowboardcross event in Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra, on Saturday.
Jacob, 20, had never finished higher than seventh in seven previous World Cup starts.
He clinched an Olympic berth via U.S. Snowboarding’s Olympic selection criteria, which calls for up to three snowboardcross athletes who have top-four finishes in designated events to make the team. If more than three get top-four finishes, the tiebreaker is an athlete’s best finish.
This complicates the Olympic qualifying picture for two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott, who finished 49th in qualifying where 48 advanced to Saturday’s final.
It marked Wescott’s first competition since a complete reconstruction of his left ACL in April after falling into an Alaska crevasse while shooting part of a film for ski and snowboard director Warren Miller.
Here’s where it gets tricky for Wescott:
Three Americans now have top-four finishes — Jacob, Nate Holland (who was fourth Saturday) and Alex Deibold (who was third in a December event).
No more than four U.S. men can make the Olympic Team, which will be announced following two more races — one more in Andorra on Sunday and one next weekend in Switzerland. (Correction: Next weekend’s event in Switzerland was postponed, likely to March).
The potential fourth Olympic spot is discretionary, meaning Wescott could be selected regardless of his results.
The next best U.S. snowboarder this season, Nick Baumgartner, has sixth-place finishes in his last two World Cups.
Could Wescott be placed on the team over Baumgartner?
Also Saturday, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis took third in the women’s race behind Canadian Dominique Maltais.
Jacobellis, who has all but clinched an Olympic berth, ranks second to Maltais in World Cup standings and is looking like a Sochi gold medal contender.