U.S. snowboard veterans write legend in dancing snowflakes

American duo Nick Baumgartner, 40, and Lindsey Jacobellis, 36, hugged each other tightly at the finish line of the snowboard cross mixed team big final at Beijing 2022 on Saturday.

American duo Nick Baumgartner, 40, and Lindsey Jacobellis, 36, hugged each other tightly at the finish line of the snowboard cross mixed team big final at Beijing 2022 on Saturday.

The dancing snowflakes landed, congratulating the oldest male and female snowboarders in the Winter Olympics on taking the gold medal they have been pursuing all their lives.

Today's heavy snow somehow increased the difficulty of the competition, as fresh snow on the course made it difficult for the riders to control their snowboarding.

"That's something about being the veterans. In conditions like this, the draft is so important and you have to be able to stay in it until the last second. That doesn't scare us because we've done it so many times," said Baumgartner after the final.

"I tried to remember my old X Games days and jump as hard as I could on every jump to try to make the landing and use the draft when possible. I am very comfortable riding very closely to other riders and then trying to execute off that speed that I gain from them," said Jacobellis.

Since joining the national team in 2001, Jacobellis has achieved 31 wins and 55 podiums in 100 World Cup starts, six snowboard cross world championships (five individuals and one team) in eight appearances, and ten X Games championships, with her first X Games appearance at age 15. In 2007 and 2009, she was the snowboard cross Crystal Globe winner.

As the most decorated snowboard cross athlete of all time, Jacobellis, a four-time Olympian before Beijing 2022, had previously missed all Olympic gold chances although she had always been one of the title favorites.

She might have realized her dream in her Olympic debut in Turin 2006. In a dramatic final, Jacobellis had been in the lead for almost the entire run, leaving her close follower Tanja Frieden of Switzerland dozens of meters behind.

On the second to last jump, Jacobellis stunned the crowd by showcasing a backside air trick to celebrate, but lost her balance and fell down. Although she got up and finished the run, she had to settle for silver.

Since then, the Olympic arena looked like a jinx for her. She finished fifth at Vancouver 2010, seventh at Sochi 2014 and fourth at PyeongChang 2018.

At the age of 36, Jacobellis came to Beijing 2022 and the Genting Snow Park venue is her "blessed land" where she claimed the women's cross title on February 9 and the mixed team gold Saturday, killing two birds with one stone and becoming the oldest female Olympic snowboard champion.

Before Beijing 2022, Baumgartner's best result at an Olympic Games was fourth place at PyeongChang 2018. Even in the men's cross on February 10, he failed to enter the top eight and finished 10th.

But in Saturday's mixed team big final, the veteran finished first in the men's run, gifting Jacobellis a chance of starting first. Jacobellis did not let him down and also finished first in the women's run with a top-notch overtaking move on PyeongChang 2018 champion Michela Moioli of Italy on the inside of the final right-banked turn.

The triumph made Baumgartner realize his lifelong dream of winning an Olympic medal at his fifth attempt and the 40-year-old has become the oldest snowboarder to do so.

"It's different tears today. These tears are so much better. When you have adversity, you can't quit. You keep going because the good things are coming," Baumgartner said.

On his 17-year-old son, Baumgartner said, "This gold medal is awesome. For him to see me fight through that adversity and do stuff right before he's about to graduate high school and go on to figure out what he's going to do in life, is huge."

"And now I get to take a gold medal home to his commencement speech at his [high school] graduation," he said with smile.

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