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.

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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