Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Snowboarding
AP National Writer
Winter Olympic snowboard parallel giant slalom final.
WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canadian Jasey-Jay Anderson put the exclamation point on his incredible resume Saturday, winning Olympic gold to slap some sunshine on an otherwise miserable day for snowboarding.
The 34-year-old from Quebec, owner of seven World Cup championships, carved through the rain-sluiced, fogged-in course at Cypress Mountain to make up a .76-second deficit over Benjamin Karl of Austria, the top-ranked rider in the world.
"Shock," Anderson said when asked how he felt. "That's it."
He won the 12th gold medal of the Vancouver Games for Canada, which put the host in good position to win the gold-medal standings with only one day left.
And he won his first Olympic medal in four tries, adding it to his four world championship golds and a career that has done more than anyone's to spread the word of snowboarding across his wintry country.
"It's amazing the amount of energy I sucked out of people around me," Anderson said. "And it's amazing to be able to give something back."
He did it on a course hindered by sloppy, slushy, rain-saturated snow and nearly blind racing conditions. At times, the fog was so thick, riders said they couldn't see two gates in front of them. At others, the rain laid down on their goggles to make the rut-filled trip down the course that much more treacherous.
"In these conditions, it's virtually impossible," Anderson said. "Challenges like today, where you're swimming all day, you can't see anything, you just have to rise above that and do the best you can. I tried to dig in deep and see what was there."
Bronze medalist Mathieu Bozzetto of France called the conditions "ugly," and American Tyler Jewell said if this had been a World Cup event, "they probably would have canceled it."
"But this is the Olympics," Jewell said.
Vancouver Games organizers, as they have throughout, sloughed off the critical questions about holding events at a rain-soaked venue that has been hard to reach for fans and hard to compete on for athletes. Because of the schedule and the weather, Saturday was, in fact, the first day the men had actually been allowed down the competition course.
"We knew from the beginning of January, mid-January, that this lovely mountain was going to provide us some real challenges," Vancouver Organizing Committee spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade said. "It's been like our special child in the family, who's lovely and talented, and causes you all kinds of headaches because it is what it is."
It was the second straight day that snowboarding's least-popular discipline endured a black eye, held in soaking conditions that sent rider after rider falling. All four of Saturday's quarterfinals, including one involving American Chris Klug, were decided after one of the two riders skidded off course.
"I feel like I'm going salmon fishing more than snowboarding out here," Klug said. "I feel like I'm going on a surf trip, it's so wet."
Klug, who won bronze in 2002 — 18 months after a lifesaving liver transplant — briefly looked like he might fashion yet another amazing Olympic moment. Qualifying last of the 16 who make the heats, he knocked off top-seeded Andreas Prommegger in the first round and had a .6-second lead on Bozzetto after the first of their two races.
But Klug, like so many on this day, skidded out and couldn't endure. He ended up seventh, and said in 20 years of World Cup competition, he'd never seen anything like it.
"This takes the cake," he said.
But unlike Friday, when fans bailed after qualifying to get out of the pouring rain, the stands remained full to watch one of the country's sports icons try to pick up pretty much the only big prize that has eluded him over a 14-year career.
No matter that the fog, at times, obscured the big scoreboard that shows the races — they kept the cowbells ringing throughout. They can say they were there for one of the more amazing comebacks, too.
After a rough first race, Anderson had to start the second heat .76 seconds behind Karl, who came in with one victory, five podiums and the top ranking in the world.
On this course, there should have been no chance. But Anderson started making up ground about halfway down, then overcame the Austrian with about six gates left and won by .35 seconds.
An incredible finish to a bizarre and incredible day.
"A true athlete thrives in adversity, and I tried to be a true athlete," Anderson said.