Smith takes sixth in boardercross |

Smith takes sixth in boardercross

Shauna FarnellOlympics correspondent
Jason Smith talks to reporters after finishing sixth in the inaugural Olympic boardercross event Thursday in Bardonechhia, Italy. (Shauna Farnell photo)

BARDONECHHIA, Italy – Basalt’s Jason Smith said if anyone was to win a gold medal besides himself, he hoped it would be his teammate Seth Wescott.Wescott broke free to win each of his four runs Thursday during the inaugural Olympic snowboardcross event in Bardonechhia.Wescott, from Farmington, Maine, had to fight to the finish in his final run, racing behind Slovakia’s Radoslav Zidek until three-quarters of the way down, when he whipped ahead around a banked turn and just barely held his lead across the finish line.”I just knew if I was patient and confident I’d reach the part of the course that I could work a little better,” Wescott said. “Coming into that one turn, I dove the inside line on him like clockwork.”Zidek ended up with the silver medal, while France’s Paul-Henri Delerue took bronze. Smith finished sixth, and American Nate Holland finished 14th.

“No one else would I rather have on that podium besides myself,” Smith said. “Seth is a veteran of the snowboardcross team, and making that pass, making it that exciting for all the spectators and the people back home, is awesome. I came in here definitely looking for gold. But I’m happy I ended up sixth.” All four Americans, including Graham Watanabe, who was filling in for injured Jason Hayle, advanced to the quarterfinal heats Thursday. Smith, like Wescott, ran away with his first two runs in Thursday’s final heats.Watanabe was the first to go down on the technical course, which began with a series of closely placed tabletops and continued into narrow, banked turns and finished with two huge, slopestyle-sized jumps.No room to accelerate”This course is real active, there’s not a lot of places to generate speed,” Smith said. “The roller sections are real quick. You just have to roll through it.”

Unlike in the previous semifinal heats, 24-year-old Smith didn’t get the first break at the start and was wedged into third place. He fought into second for a moment, his snowboard bumping against those of other racers. He made his way around a couple of curves but lost the inside position and fell back into third. His small finals heat ran similarly, but Smith found areas to generate speed and take sixth overall.Smith said the Olympic course made this year’s Winter X Games course look easy.”There’s a lot more action in this course versus this year’s X Games,” he said. “X Games is a great event. It was great to be there. I think this year’s X Games course was a little mellow. They knew they had some Olympians coming in. That’s fine with me.”While the X Games are much closer to home for Smith, he said the atmosphere at the Olympics exceeds even that of boardercross’s premier event.X’s and O’s

“At the X Games, you have this big a crowd, but it’s for the whole X Games – for all the events,” Smith said. “Everybody [at the Olympics] is here to watch snowboardcross, and that’s amazing.”Smith has faced a few reality checks since arriving in Turin and training for his first Olympic event.”It’s such a trip, because I’m out here doing what I do every day,” he said. “And last night was probably the most nervous I’ve been for a race, ever, just thinking, ‘Wow. I’m at the Olympics.’ It’s what I’ve been dreaming of for so long.” He said sharing the experience with his teammates and compatriots in other sports has been the best part of his Olympic experience.”Being in the athletes’ village and meeting some of the other athletes has been great,” he said. “I’m part of the U.S. Snowboard Team, but you come here and you’re part of the U.S. Olympic Team. You watch them on TV and cheer and you’re a part of it. It goes from being a six-person team to … however many we all are.”