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.

Skate America champ Satoko Miyahara hopes to challenge Russians

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Like many elite figure skating coaches, Mie Hamada trains two of her country’s top athletes: Satoko Miyahara, the four-time and reigning Japanese champion who won her second straight Skate America title on Sunday; and Rika Kihira, the sport’s leading female proponent of the triple axel.

Also in common with many of her colleagues, both of Hamada’s star pupils will compete at the same Grand Prix event: NHK Trophy, held Nov. 9-11 in Hiroshima, Japan.

Unlike most coaches, though, Hamada is clear about which student she wants to win, be it at NHK or this season’s Japanese and world championships.

“I hope the champion is 18, because we want to see a senior lady, not a senior girl, don’t you think?” Hamada said in Everett. “A skater who has a story, not only jumps.”

A skater like Miyahara, who at age 20 is about four years Kihira’s senior.

“Jumps are very important, we know that, but the five (program) components, the artistry, should also count,” Hamada said.

“This is figure skating,” she added, drawing out each syllable for emphasis.I hope judges understand what is important for the sport.”

In Everett, Miyahara had it all: two intricate, elegant programs; gorgeous spins and steps; clean triple jumps – everything except a triple axel. She was the only lady in the event to land a triple lutz, triple toe combination that wasn’t judged under rotated. In fact, none of her jumps received the dreaded “<” – quite a feat, given some of her prior results and the new, more stringent international judging system (IJS) guidelines.

“During the off-season I did some training with very light weights, and it was very new for me,” said the tiny Miyahara, who is listed in her ISU bio as five feet tall. “I was training to make my hamstrings stronger. I had a bad habit of not using the butt and the hamstrings, only to use the front side (of my thighs), and that was not good for big jumps.”

Hamada, weary of the under rotations that have cost Miyahara dearly in the past, is behind the new regimen.

“This year, Satoko has a new strength trainer, and she worked very hard in the summer time, so she gets extra muscle,” Hamada said. “Then in October, we just relaxed and did some easier exercises before (Skate America).”

Miyahara has grown stronger in other ways. At last season’s Skate America, the skater spoke of her dangerous calcium deficiency, for which she was taking supplements. That has improved, but Miyahara remains underweight. Off-ice in Everett, she was never without a small canvas bag packed with snacks, and she apologetically delayed our interview so she could sit down and eat some.

“I like to eat, so it’s not hard for me, but I don’t know why I lose weight when I come to competitions,” Miyahara said. “There is no practice like the usual practice, it’s a lot less, but I think maybe I am using my mind a lot and I need food.”

Hamada speculates the weight problem is due to her skater’s deep work ethic, which includes her studies at Kansai University in Osaka.

“Each day, every day, every moment, she is working hard,” Hamada said. “She has to think about nutrition all of the time. Most skaters her age are trying to lose weight, but she is the opposite. She has to take carbohydrates, she has to take everything.”

Both coach and skater hope the increased strength – plus a revised judging system that includes grades of execution (GOE) for elements ranging from -5 to +5 – help Miyahara challenge the Russian contingent this season, including Olympic champion Alina Zagitova and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva.

“It is not a very easy thing, but I think I have to improve my programs and jumps, and everything, to get more (GOE) pluses,” Miyahara said. “When I compete with Russians, I always watch them and think, ‘why do they jump like machines?’”

For now, though, Miyahara’s main competition is training partner Kihara. In the few weeks leading up to NHK, they will share the ice in Osaka, where they always skate together in the same sessions.

“Rika learns how to use her edges from Satoko, who has beautiful edges and skates without any noise,” Hamada said. “But Satoko learns how to jump from Rika, so it’s a good situation. They are not enemies, they are good rivals. It is very important to have a good rival.”

Kihira – the first lady to land a triple axel-triple toe loop combination in history, at the Junior Grand Prix Final last season – plans two triple axels in her free skate at NHK, Hamada said. Although she is working on quadruple jumps, including toe loop and salchow, she likely will not attempt them this season.

“(Kihira) is working very hard on the artistry, because I want her to become a very beautiful lady skater with triple axel and quad,” Hamada said. “This year I am not planning to have quads in her programs but I want beautiful edges, beautiful flow.”

And Miyahara, as always, vows to work harder.

“It’s a very good environment for me to practice (with Kihira), because she pushes me and I feel like I have to do more,” she said.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Usain Bolt offered contract with Australia soccer club, hurdles remain

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Usain Bolt has been offered a contract with his Australian soccer team after playing for the Central Coast Mariners on a tryout deal, but the club said it likely needs more money from an external party to sign Bolt.

The club also said in a press release that while Bolt “made great progression” in his two months of preseason training, it “does not have the luxury” to play him in regular-season league matches.

“I do appreciate how important this story is for the rest of the world, I do appreciate that, but you have a look at our front line today and you wonder whether he could get into any of those positions,” Central Coast coach Mike Mulvey said Sunday, after his club began regular-season play in Australia’s top division without Bolt.

Bolt will not train with the club this week until he signs — if he signs.

Bolt scored his first two goals for the Mariners on Oct. 12 in a friendly against a team that is not in the A-League. Bolt had said the match, his third, would determine his future after he first joined the club on an indefinite trial in hopes of getting a contract.

“After this game is where we can talk because the season’s coming up,” Bolt said after the match.

The eight-time Olympic champion Bolt has long harbored dreams of playing pro soccer.

Since retiring in summer 2017, he has trained alongside club teams in South Africa, Jamaica and Norway, plus had a much-publicized visit with Borussia Dortmund in March. Bolt and Dortmund share an apparel sponsor in Puma.

Bolt said he turned down offers from teams in France and Spain, but not in the top division. He prefers Australia, where he doesn’t have to learn a language. His long-time dream has been to play for Manchester United.

“The [Mariners] coach has explained to me that there won’t be any special treatment,” Bolt said as his Mariners trial began in August. “They will treat me just like a footballer should be treated. … I don’t want to be treated like I’m the world’s fastest man.”

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