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.

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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