Jacobellis hunts for the gold she lost in Turin
With more World Cup and Winter X Games victories than any other competitor, Lindsey Jacobellis is the most successful racer in the history of snowboardcross, a freestyle snowboarding discipline often compared with roller derby, in which four competitors charge head to head down a course filled with banks, bumps, berms and jumps.
Yet she is perhaps most famous for a fall at the 2006 Winter Olympics that cost her a gold medal during the sport's debut at the Games.
Jacobellis began competing in snowboardcross at the urging of her older brother, Ben, an accomplished snowboard racer. She attended the winter sports academy Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where she was a standout in the snowboardcross, halfpipe and slopestyle disciplines.
At 15, Jacobellis was invited to compete at the Winter X Games in snowboardcross. Three years later, she won the first of three straight gold medals in the event at the Winter X Games.
Heading into the 2006 Winter Olympics, Jacobellis was favored to win a gold medal in snowboardcross. With bright blue eyes, tight blonde curls and a 100-watt smile, she featured prominently in promotions for the Games. In the final, Jacobellis built a commanding lead, and she began celebrating on the course's penultimate jump by pulling a method air, grabbing her board's heel edge and tweaking it 75 degrees.
But she caught an edge on the landing and spun out on her back, allowing Tanja Frieden of Switzerland to pass her for the gold medal. Jacobellis wound up with the silver medal.
In the aftermath, Jacobellis at first she said she grabbed her board for stability. Then she admitted she did it for fun. Some commentators criticized her for showboating. Weary of questions from the news media about her fall, she said: "I still got a silver out of it. It was pretty amazing."
Eleven months after the Olympics, Jacobellis wiped out in similar fashion at the 2007 Winter X Games. In the lead, she lost her balance while soaring over the course's final jump. She caught her heel edge while landing and cartwheeled over the finish line, but not before Joanie Anderson passed her for the gold medal. Jacobellis again settled for silver.
But those bungles have been the only blemishes in an impressive career. And in subsequent races Jacobellis reasserted her dominance, winning the 2008 Winter X Games. In 2009, she won the World Cup championship, Winter X Games, and her 16th World Cup race, the most by any snowboardcross racer in history.
"Straight up, she's supercompetitive," Peter Foley, coach of the United States snowboard team has said about Jacobellis. "When somebody is next to her, she will do anything to pass her."
And although most people recall only her mishaps, Jacobellis will remind them to remember something else, "Just to have someone beat me is very rare."