Vic Wild’s wild ride into snowboarding history

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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.

VIDEO: Watch Wild’s ride to parallel slalom gold

“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.

RELATED: Friends Wild, Reiter take divergent paths to Sochi

“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.

WATCH: Vic Wild earns second gold of Sochi Games

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.

RELATED: Expat Wild, wife storm parallel giant slalom podiums for Russia

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.

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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