Holland reclaims boardercross crown | AspenTimes.com

Holland reclaims boardercross crown

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Nate Holland celebrates after winning the gold in the men's snowboarder X competition at the Winter X Games, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Aspen, Colo. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Daniel Petty) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT
AP | The Denver Post

ASPEN – Monday, six-time Winter X boardercross gold medalist Nate Holland tweeted: “XGames here I come and I want my gold back.”

He admitted that it was a bold claim, but he backed up his words Saturday afternoon.

Holland took the bronze medal last year, snapping his streak of five consecutive victories. This time around, Holland took advantage of a late crash by Stian Sivertzen of Germany and cruised to his seventh Winter X gold.

“It always feels great to be back on top,” Holland said. “It all came down to today, and I knew I had to ride my heart out to back my words up.”

Nick Baumgartner, last year’s winner, took silver, and Jayson Hale settled for bronze – his first time on the podium since 2006 – to complete the U.S. sweep. American Alex Deibold finished fourth.

The final race generated all the drama and chaos that boardercross is known for: Sivertzen took the early lead after Holland mishandled the jumps at the start. According to Holland and Baumgartner, the course seemed to be running faster as the day wore on.

“I found myself in my usual spot right in Winter X: the middle of the pack,” Holland said. “I scouted a bunch of passing and drafting zones, but I just was not able to find a passing zone.”

Baumgartner struggled to stay on the course as he carried too much speed into the second banked curve. He rode the top of that curve and wound up at the back of the pack with Hale.

“The speeds changed a lot, and the course got faster,” Baumgartner said. “I was on the draft the entire time, and on this course you are going faster than the guys in front of you, but you just can’t get around them. I was just trying to hang on and get myself in a position where if something happened I could capitalize on it.”

With Sivertzen in the lead, Holland in second and Pierre Vaultier of France creeping up behind Holland, Sivertzen caught an edge toward the bottom of the course. He crashed, taking down Vaultier but giving Holland his opening.

“Stian went down, and I made it out of the carnage,” Holland said. “It was so beautiful to be able to see that finish line without Nick in front of me.”

With the course clear, Holland took gold easily. Baumgartner and Hale crossed the line soon after.

“It’s not the way I wanted to get second, but I’ll take it,” Baumgartner said. “I have my family here, and everyone was here to watch. I saw my kid at the end, and I said, ‘Hey, buddy, I didn’t win.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but you had fun,’ so you can’t beat that.”

When asked if the Americans can continue Saturday’s dominance, Holland said anything can happen in such an unpredictable sport.

“I’d love it to, but the reality is that there are so many good guys out there in the world,” Holland said. “Our team is riding well right now, and we’ve worked really hard, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened again.”

The absence of seven-time Winter X gold medalist Lindsey Jacobellis left things wide open in the women’s boardercross event Saturday.

The top female qualifier, Dominique Maltais of Canada, easily won her semifinal race and then took the gold medal by almost 2 seconds over Bulgarian Alexandra Jekova and Canada teammate Maelle Ricker.

Jacobellis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during practice Wednesday.

“Last year, I went to the final and made some mistakes,” Maltais said. “I was really mad at myself. This year, I was really looking forward to this one. … I gave everything in the last run. I didn’t ever look back and when I did, I was really surprised that I was so far in front.”

The gold is Maltais’ first Winter X Games podium finish in three career appearances.

“Lindsey is a great competitor and is always pushing all of us,” Maltais said. “It’s been tight all season, and it’s really sad what happened to her.”

Jekova added: “It’s a shame she couldn’t defend her title from last year, but that’s a part of the game and I hope she comes back stronger.”

Jekova logged her first podium finish in three appearances and won the first Winter X medal for any Bulgarian athlete.

“I’m really happy I can bring back this medal,” Jekova said. “I hope the people there can appreciate it as much as I do. I’m looking forward to getting better and faster, and possibly take the gold in the future.”

Ricker’s bronze is her first podium finish since 2007. The 2010 Olympic gold medalist missed last year’s games because of a broken hand and injured shoulder.

“There was a nerve injury in my shoulder, so it was just a matter of time to get the fiber reconnected,” Ricker said. “It was definitely a test of my patience, and I don’t have a lot of patience. But I’m so happy to be back with my training and back competing at Winter X.”

The lone American competitor, Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, finished second in the consolation heat after failing to qualify for the final.

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