Nick Baumgartner

WATCH LIVE: Snowboard cross final featuring Nate Holland

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The men’s snowboard cross saw its qualifying round canceled and the finals postponed from Monday to Tuesday because of fog. The fog has lifted, but now rain might factor in as a bit of a wild card in an often-wild event.

SNOWBOARDING

Men’s snowboard cross final: 1:30 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

The U.S. has four snowboarders competing in the event, with Nate Holland standing out among a group that also includes Nick Baumgartner, Trevor Jacob and Alex Deibold. The notable exclusion, of course, is 2010 gold medalist Seth Wescott.

There should be some solid competition from overseas, particularly Australia’s Alex Pullin and Austria’s Markus Schairer.

Nick Baumgartner earns Olympic spot over Seth Wescott

Nick Baumgartner
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Nick Baumgartner cried. A fourth-grade class at Stambaugh Elementary School screamed.

Baumgartner was named to his second U.S. Olympic Team on Friday, beating out two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott for the final spot on the men’s snowboard cross team going to Sochi.

U.S. coaches told Baumgartner he had been selected at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., after he and Wescott were eliminated in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.

Baumgartner then called Stambaugh Elementary in Iron River, Mich., where he was connected to his 9-year-old son, Landon, to spread the word.

“I was crying,” Baumgartner said. “Losing it.”

He quickly got a call back from the school, which wanted confirmation because Landon was being coy about the news. Baumgartner obliged, and he could hear the classroom’s reaction on the other end of the line.

It capped a stressful two weeks for Baumgartner, who was the top U.S. rider not to earn automatic qualification onto the Olympic Team during the World Cup season.

Three other men did, leaving one spot for the U.S. team to fill as a discretionary selection with either Baumgartner or Wescott, who was coming back from April ACL surgery.

Wescott finished 49th and 31st in his first two races back two weeks ago, but was thought to still be a Sochi candidate given he’s the only Olympic champion men’s snowboard cross has ever known.

The Winter X Games were seen as a last chance for both riders to impress selectors.

Wescott competed in Friday’s quarterfinals first, finishing fifth where the top three advanced. Baumgartner watched Wescott’s race at the top of the hill on a TV screen, cheering for him. He admires Wescott, but at the same time seeing the result put him at ease.

Ten minutes later, Baumgartner set out on his quarterfinal and also finished fifth. He was dissatisfied with his performance in the immediate aftermath, but, after making the Olympic Team, said he felt good overall.

“I was happy with my riding again here,” Baumgartner said. “I thought I rode really well, really smart and going for it. That’s what it takes to win.”

Baumgartner was still teary eyed from talking to his son when he made eye contact with Wescott for the first time after the Olympic announcement.

“[Wescott] came up, gave me a big hug and said congrats,” Baumgartner said. “He’s a role model for me. I think he should be for everyone.”

In 2010, Baumgartner accomplished his goal of making the Olympic Team. His sights are set higher this year, given he’s won X Games gold and silver since the Vancouver Games.

“Half the goal was to make the team,” Baumgartner said. “Now my goal is winning a medal and bringing it back to Michigan.”

Baumgartner joins Alex DeiboldNate Holland and Trevor Jacob on the men’s Olympic Team. The women’s team has not been announced yet, but it will include Lindsey Jacobellis and at most two more riders.

Wescott, 37, has said he will continue to compete with an eye on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He would be the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history if he’s able to do so.

Jacobellis breaks X Games record

Seth Wescott, Nick Baumgartner eliminated at X Games; Olympic picture unclear

Seth Wescott
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Seth Wescott hoped the Winter X Games would clearly determine the final possible selection to the Olympic Team in men’s snowboard cross.

They didn’t.

Wescott, the two-time Olympic champion, and Nick Baumgartner finished fifth in respective quarterfinals where the top three advanced to semifinals in Aspen, Colo., on Friday.

They are the two men vying for one possible final spot on the U.S. Olympic Team to be named Saturday. Three men have automatically qualified already — Alex DeiboldNate Holland and Trevor Jacob.

The decision on a fourth member would be made by U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association officials as a discretionary selection.

The X Games were their final chance to prove in competition that they deserved to go to Sochi.

Wescott, 37, went up first and spent the early portion of his race in the back of a six-rider pack before his board and another rider’s board collided, costing him a chance at the top three.

“It wasn’t much of a showing,” Wescott said on ESPN3. “It wasn’t enough today. Discretion now. We’ll see. Hopefully [Baumgartner] rides well today. I’ve been saying the last couple weeks the Olympics has an amazing ability to transform people’s lives. I’d love to see him get through today well, and then go over there healthy and be able to represent the U.S.”

It didn’t go well for Baumgartner.

He rode less than 10 minutes after Wescott’s comments and was crashed into by an out-of-control rider. Baumgartner made it to the bottom of the course and lay on his back.

“Oh man, not what I was going for,” he said on the ground.

Wescott has won both gold medals since the sport was added to the Olympics in 2006 and could become the first American man to win three golds in the same event in Sochi.

It’s been a long road back for Wescott, who underwent a complete reconstruction of his left ACL in April after falling into an Alaska crevasse while shooting part of a film for ski and snowboard director Warren Miller. He tore the ACL and broke his tibia.

His return to competition came in Andorra earlier this month, the final World Cup event before the Olympics. Wescott finished an unimpressive 49th and 31st in two races, aiming for that top-four criteria.

Baumgartner, a 2010 Olympian, is the only U.S. man with three top-10 finishes on the World Cup tour this season.

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