Justin Reiter rebounds after it went ‘horribly wrong’ in Sochi

Justin Reiter

Justin Reiter, a U.S. snowboarder who loosely compared his lone-wolf Sochi Olympic experience to the film “Into the Wild,” felt quite different last Saturday night.

“Validated,” he said.

Reiter, 34, captured his first World Cup victory under the lights in Moscow and the first for any U.S. rider in his discipline in more than a decade.

Reiter’s story was well told last season, before and during the Sochi Olympics. He once lived out of his 2012 Toyota Tundra and then became the only 2014 U.S. Olympian in Alpine snowboarding. No teammates.

Younger snowboarders in the more visible disciplines mistook him for a coach. He walked into the Opening Ceremony alone.

“Happiness is better when shared,” Reiter said in a phone interview this week, paraphrasing “Into the Wild” but emphasizing his Olympic experience was by no means as traumatic as Christopher McCandless‘ venture into the Alaskan wilderness.

Alpine snowboarding, where riders race on a gated course, similar to but shorter than Alpine skiing, was the first snowboarding discipline to debut at the Winter Olympics in 1998.

The first Olympic halfpipe competition was held later in those Nagano Games. While halfpipe ascended in the 2000s, Alpine faded as new, more popular events of snowboard cross and slopestyle joined the Olympics in 2006 and 2014.

In Sochi, Reiter’s performance in his two events “went horribly wrong.”

He failed to advance out of a qualifying round in the parallel giant slalom, carving the Rosa Khutor course 24th-fastest when he needed to be in the top 16.

Three days later, he unknowingly missed a gate in his first parallel slalom qualifying run and was notified of his disqualification while in the start area for his second run.

“I always felt like I could earn an Olympic medal, I felt like it was there,” said Reiter, a 2013 World Championships silver medalist who made the podium in the World Cup event preceding Sochi. “And, shit, it didn’t.

“It was the worst two competitions I had in almost my entire career.”

Reiter considered quitting, but he previously, briefly, retired after failing to make the 2010 Olympic team. He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice of leaving snowboarding with a sour taste.

He returned this season with a new home (a rented room, though he still owns the Tundra, his “adventure mobile”), a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association stipend (so he didn’t have to fundraise or work a side job) and a new outlook.

He developed a mantra for 2014-15 — best season ever.

“That doesn’t mean I have to ride the best,” Reiter said. “It just means that I’m taking the opportunity to see museums I haven’t seen or go to have lunch with one of my friends from France and take time to meet different people.”

Happiness is better when shared. Reiter’s two World Cup podiums this season matched his previous combined total from a career dating to 2003.

He ranks third overall in the World Cup standings, two spots ahead of friend Vic Wild, who was frustrated in 2011 with a lack of support from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, married a Russian and competed as a Russian at the Olympics, sweeping the Alpine snowboarding golds.

In Moscow on Saturday, Reiter defeated Austrian Benjamin Karl in the final. Karl has won medals at the last two Olympics and the last four World Championships.

It was an odd race, only about 15 seconds long, not half the length of the typical Olympic Alpine course.

“Crossing that [finish] line, it felt like, yeah, I validated myself,” Reiter said. “There you go, Justin, I can do this.”

And he didn’t celebrate alone.

“When I won, everyone else knew how important it was,” Reiter said, according to the Park (City, Utah) Record, “I’m a child of the entire tour.”

Reiter has one more World Cup competition left Saturday and then will ponder his future again in the spring and summer break. He’s unsure about sticking with it through the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“It’s really hard to say,” he said. “I don’t think people understand how much sacrifice it takes for four years. If I was raking in the dough, had sponsors out the wazoo and was able to support myself and put away for a future, then maybe. Right now, I make an incredible life, but I don’t necessarily make a living, and that makes it hard to commit to four years.”

Mario Matt, Olympic slalom champion, retires

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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