For most athletes, nothing is bigger than the Olympics. For participants in the “extreme” sports like snowboarding, that’s doubly true; success at the Winter Olympics can often translate into mainstream success, something that is difficult to achieve for most athletes not named Shaun White.
That’s why it was so tough to watch Lindsey Jacobellis suffer yet another letdown in Sochi this weekend. Jacobellis is a three-time snowboard cross world champion, and an eight-time X Games gold medalist. She’s been at the top of her sport for over a decade and is a big part of why snowboarding has become so popular in the United States.
Yet every time she’s gone to the Olympics as a favorite, she’s found some kind of misfortune that has kept her from fulfilling that potential. Perhaps it all goes back to the 2006 Turin Games, where in the first snowboard cross final, Jacobellis famously blew her shot at gold with a botched landing on a grab on the last jump.
The cynics and doubters would certainly have you believe that’s the case, but her last two Olympic disappointments are more a factor of bad luck and the unpredictability of her sport than anything else. When she carried a little too much speed into a roller section at Rosa Khutor, she lost her rhythm, slipped and fell. It could happen to anybody. It was human error magnified to the largest degree.
To her credit, Jacobellis won’t blame dumb luck. “There’s a lot you can’t control, but unfortunately what I could control today, was what didn’t work,” Jacobellis said in USA TODAY after the race. “That’s the unfortunate part, because so much is up to chance, and you can’t control people coming into you and things like that, but today, it just wasn’t my day to put everything together.”
At 28 years old and in her third Olympics, certainly there are questions about whether she’ll be able to stay on top for 2018 in Korea, but that’s a discussion for another day. Lindsey Jacobellis has done amazing things for the sport of women’s snowboard cross, and hopefully her accomplishments will be remembered more than her failures in the years to come.