Vic Wild, who switched from U.S. to Russia and won Olympic gold, readies for last ride

Vic Wild
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Vic Wild, the snowboarder who switched from the U.S. to Russia and won two Olympic gold medals in 2014, is preparing for the likely final season of his career. He’s not one to make a big deal about retirement, though.

A Russian TV report last week stated based off an interview that Wild will race for the last time this winter.

“Probably after the Olympics, we’ll see,” he said by phone when asked about it. “If I [qualify for and] go to the Olympics, maybe I finish the season, maybe not. I’ll feel it out.

“Probably should have retired a long time ago. But I’m going to stop now.”

Wild, 35, has one World Cup podium in the last five years and is trying to cling to fourth place on the Russian depth chart in parallel giant slalom, where a maximum of four riders per country can go to the Olympics.

“For me to be able to snowboard, it’s just a big sacrifice,” he said. “I can’t really do anything else because it just takes up so much time. And I’ve done everything I needed to do.”

He authored one of the fascinating athlete stories of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The native of White Salmon, Washington, sought to leave the U.S. program because of a lack of funding and overall support paid out to the Alpine team, the least-publicized (and the U.S.’ least successful) discipline in snowboarding after halfpipe, slopestyle and snowboard cross.

So he rode for Russia starting in 2012, gaining eligibility after marrying Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina. Then something happened that stunned Wild — he swept both the parallel slalom and the parallel giant slalom events at his first Olympics after ranking ninth in the world the previous season.

“I would have retired after the Olympics in Sochi had I not won,” he said Friday. “For sure it was the easier money to keep snowboarding. And I didn’t really know how else to earn money back then. And also, I felt like I kind of was obligated to keep going for the [Russian] snowboard federation, for a lot of people that invested a lot of time in me to come to Russia.”

Wild was one of two Russians to win multiple individual golds in Sochi. The other was also a foreign-born athlete, former South Korea short track speed skater Viktor Ahn. When Wild met Vladimir Putin after the Games, Putin spoke to him in English.

Now, Wild is the last active individual gold medalist for Russia from those Winter Games who wasn’t stripped of a medal (temporarily or permanently) as part of the nation’s doping scheme.

Wild believes that some Russians were cheating in Sochi, but not to the extent that whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said happened. Wild was not implicated, but said some tried to lump him into the tainted group anyway.

“You can’t accidentally take drugs,” he said. “You’ve got to know you’re doing it. This is just silly.”

Wild was stressed to not know whether he was going to be on the list of Russians invited to compete at the 2018 Olympics until one week before the Opening Ceremony. He made it to South Korea, placing 10th in the parallel giant slalom (parallel slalom was removed from the program after its Sochi debut).

Wild knows he can still ride fast. He felt it in training, but it hasn’t recently translated to results. “Last year was kind of a disaster,” said Wild, who had a best World Cup finish of ninth and was 22nd at the world championships.

Wild was quoted by Russian media last week questioning vaccine requirements for young, healthy athletes, while supporting vaccinations for those who are older and immunocompromised. Asked about those comments, he said he will reluctantly adhere to the Olympic vaccination requirement to avoid a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in China, should he qualify for the Games.

“I support vaccines for whoever wants to have them,” he said. “I also support humans right to choice.”

Once he’s done snowboarding competitively, Wild wants to free ride and “make it in Moscow” with a snowboard gear business he runs with two friends. After that, he would consider spending more time in the U.S.

“I’ve been in the game a long time,” said Wild, who debuted on the World Cup in 2004. “There’s a bit more to life.”

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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