Sixteen years after a fall in Torino resulted in silver, 36-year-old Lindsey Jacobellis dug deep Wednesday at her fifth Games to capture the elusive title she's been pursuing for nearly two decades, simultaneously claiming Team USA's first gold of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
For now snowboarding's oldest Olympic medalist, Jacobellis defeated 2014 bronze medalist Chloe Trespeuch of France and two other riders in the women's snowboard cross big final to finally make amends with a debut 2006 Games mishap, which infamously cost her the victory.
"This feels incredible because this level that all the women are riding at is a lot higher than it was 16 years ago," Jacobellis said, "so I felt like I was a winner just that I made it into finals … everything just worked for me today."
The Connecticut-born Vermonter had continually proven herself outside the Games, racking up five individual world titles and 10 individual X Games wins, yet Olympic gold remained for some reason unattainable — until now.
After Torino she was fifth in Vancouver, seventh in Sochi and fourth in PyeongChang. She has an astonishing 52 podiums and 30 wins on the World Cup circuit in individual snowboard cross alone, and this season placed third in back-to-back competitions in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Asked whether she considered the win a form of redemption, Jacobellis said she never thought of it that way.
"That was not in my mind. I wanted to just come here and compete," she said. "It would have been a nice, sweet thing, but I think if I had tried to spend the thought of redemption, then it's taking away focus on the task at hand, and that's not why I race."
SBX made its first Games appearance in 2006. Jacobellis entered as the heavy favorite, having won the last three X Games titles. In the big final, she broke away with a strong lead over Swiss Tanja Frieden but attempted a method grab on the last jump and messed up her landing. Frieden passed for gold.
"They can keep talking about [Torino] all they want because it really shaped me into the individual that I am," Jacobellis said Wednesday. "[It] kept me hungry and really helped me keep fighting in the sport."
Had it not been for the result in 2006, Jacobellis said she probably would not have won gold at these Games. "I probably would have quit the sport at that point because I wasn't really having fun with it," she said.
Per Gracenote, Jacobellis becomes the second U.S. athlete to secure two Winter Olympic medals at least 16 years apart — skeleton racer John Heaton earned silver at both the 1928 and 1948 St. Mortiz Games.
The title of oldest Olympic snowboarding medalist is conditional to the forthcoming SBX result of 40-year-old teammate Nick Baumgartner, who competes Thursday. Austria's Benjamin Karl, also 36 but younger in days, initially assumed the designation Tuesday with his victory in parallel giant slalom.
SEE MORE: Women's Snowboard Cross Finals