Lindsey Jacobellis emphasizes optimism, not heartbreak, after another Olympic miss
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The usual sting of an Olympic fourth-place finish did not accompany Lindsey Jacobellis’ words.
“I could be upset, but where is that going to get me?” she said.
Earlier, the minutes after Jacobellis’ fourth Olympic competition went like this: a discussion with a U.S. team official about her athlete credential, swigs of blue Powerade and a light chat with teammates.
“Could you not walk around without your crutches, please?” she joked with Rosie Mancari, who was to make her Olympic debut here but suffered ankle injuries in a Tuesday training crash. “I need you for Supergirl.” (more on Supergirl later)
Many emphasize Jacobellis, arguably the best snowboard cross racer ever, leaving another Winter Games without gold. Jacobellis does not.
“It’s definitely the only thing I haven’t won, but it’s not something that’s going to define me,” she said in what has become her refrain. “I still have a silver from Torino . My mom keeps that. It’s my mom’s birthday today, so I’m pretty excited that I wasn’t hurt, so she’s not having a heart attack.”
Jacobellis also owns 10 Winter X Games titles, five world championships and 29 World Cup wins, including a halfpipe victory when she was 18 years old over 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter and 2010 Olympic champion Torah Bright.
Among all that, her four Olympics produced zero snowboard cross wins.
She’s not the first winter sport icon to endure something like this (see Michelle Kwan, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Marc Girardelli and, as seen Friday, Martins Dukurs).
Losing the gold in Torino, falling on an unnecessary method grab on the second to last jump. Washing out in the semifinals in 2010 and 2014.
“It felt great to make it into the final; I haven’t been in a final since 2006,” Jacobellis said on a sunny Friday, warm enough that she didn’t wear a heavy coat in the mixed zone.
Jacobellis was a medal favorite Friday. Michela Moioli was very arguably the gold-medal favorite and delivered Italy’s first Olympic snowboard title.
The 22-year-old Moioli, who tore her ACL at the Sochi Olympics, topped the World Cup standings in 2016 and currently leads this season's rankings as well. She is a decade younger than Jacobellis, who got the holeshot in the six-rider final and was passed a few features before the finish.
Jacobellis ended up .46 seconds out of gold and .03 out of bronze. She might have made the podium if not pushed off her line by a crashing rider while landing the final jump. But Moioli was out of reach.
“It was amazing to have her ride to her potential and ride so well today, feeling so much pressure,” longtime coach Peter Foley said. “I’m bummed that it didn’t come out the way that we hoped.”
Jacobellis said her three-times surgically repaired right knee flared up on a landing in training recently. She joked that she’s been on an ibuprofen diet.
She was also the oldest of the 12 semifinalists Friday, which led to questions of how much longer she wants to compete.
“I wouldn’t ever retire right after an Olympics,” she said. “It would be that I’ve run my race and run my course, and my boardercross years are over. I doubt that [now] because I still just made it into a final, so I clearly have proven that I belong in the sport.”
It’s the sport’s gain that Jacobellis is still around. She is its biggest name, one who last year was on a reality TV game show with CM Punk, Shawne Merriman and Gus Kenworthy.
“Really fun until I had to eat a pig heart,” she said.
And she gives back. Jacobellis actually coached Olympic teammate Meghan Tierney at a camp in Mount Hood, Ore., when Tierney was 11.
Jacobellis’ focus now turns to Supergirl, a pro-am women’s halfpipe and snowboard cross event that she’s putting on in California next month. When given the opportunity, she mentioned it in multiple interviews Friday.
“That’s kind of my baby right now,” she said.
One year ago, Jacobellis was asked what would define success in PyeongChang.
“I want to win,” she answered.
If Jacobellis had won in Torino, she said she might have retired because of the pressure associated with being “America’s sweetheart” leading into those Games.
Now Jacobellis leaves her fourth Olympics with her mind on growing the sport. A different kind of success.
“As you become a more seasoned athlete, you start thinking what’s the next step for yourself and what’s the next step that you want to instill as a legacy.” she said last week. “I decided I wanted to focus that energy back towards my event.”