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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wescott golden again in men's snowboardcross

 •  Cool, calm Miller wins bronze in men's downhill

By Eddie Pells
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Gold medalist Seth Wescott, right, of the United States, passes silver medallist Mike Robertson, of Canada, near the end of the course on Cypress Mountain.

DARRYL DYCK | Canadian Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Seth Wescott

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WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia Six weeks ago, Seth Wescott couldn't walk.

Yesterday morning, he couldn't see.

Big problems?

Not so much in the unwieldy, unpredictable sport of snowboardcross.

Wescott overcame long-term injury, a bad qualifying run and a massive deficit to Canada's Mike Robertson in the final yesterday to win his second straight Olympic gold medal an amazing comeback for a rider who came to Vancouver feeling like an old man, not the defending champion.

"As you get older in this sport," he said, "you have to learn to pick and choose your days."

What a day for the 33-year-old veteran from Maine, who qualified 17th of the 32 riders after a skid-out that left him complaining he was essentially "riding blind" through the slushy snow and flat light of weather-plagued Cypress Mountain.

What he saw about a third of the way down the hill in the four-man final was no better.

His teammate Nate Holland spun out, turning it into a three-man race but really less than that. Robertson emerged untouched from the wreck and was basically out of Wescott's shouting range. The announcers on Canadian TV were practically awarding him the medal and had every reason to expect the country's second gold.

Wescott, though, is a veteran and a tactician expecting to have to come from behind in a race where he had the worst starting position because of his low seeding from qualifying. He knew his chances would come near the end of the course, on Turns 5 and 6, then Nos. 7 and 8, so he bided his time and made up the gap.

Kept closing. And closing. Then took the lead and held it.

And it was the United States that ended up with its second gold of the Games, while Robertson settled for silver and France's Tony Ramoin took bronze.

"That kind of gap, most people well, really, nobody, overcomes that," said America's snowboard coach, Peter Foley.

Not bad for a guy who had doubts about whether he would even make it after he jammed his femur into his pelvis in a race in December, an injury that was, he assures, every bit as bad as it sounds.

"Had never had that kind of pain in my pelvis before, and it was hard to know exactly what was wrong with me," Wescott said. "All of January and the tour through Europe was pretty depressing for me. Just a lot of pain."

Not so much, though, that he didn't at least think about victory.

He packed the neatly folded flag his father had given him for his celebration four years ago in Turin, gave it to a PR person for the U.S. Snowboarding team and asked her to have it handy at the finish just in case.

The flag, presented to Wescott's late grandfather years ago by the U.S. military, was draped around Seth's neck at the bottom of the hill, while he celebrated with his folks and his sister.

"That was part of the motivation to get to this moment," Wescott said. "I brought it so if I got to this moment, I'd have it here."