What's that old saying?
If you don't like the resources your nation is devoting to your snowboarding discipline, move to Russia?
Yeah, well, that's exactly what Vic Wild of White Salmon, Wash., did back in 2011 after he figured that parallel slalom snowboarding wasn't a high priority for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He obtained Russian citizenship upon marrying Russian girlfriend Alena Zavarzina in Siberia and then went to work representing a different kind of red, white and blue flag. While the U.S. focused on events like halfpipe and slopestyle, the Russians were much more serious about Alpine snowboard racing.
“I told everybody in the Russian snowboard federation: If you guys take me, you’ll never regret it,” Wild told the Wall Street Journal this week.
And it won't regret anything. Wild won the gold medal in the parallel giant slalom on Wednesday, an event that saw only one American entrant. Wild later celebrated with his wife Zavarzina, a fellow snowboarder who won bronze in the women's event, and draped himself in a Russian flag.
Wild's gold medal will certainly help Russian compete against the U.S. in the medal count, but American officials weren't decrying an opportunity lost on Wednesday.
At least not publicly:
Congrats to Vic Wild on his PGS gold. We have always respected Vic's decision to ride for Russia & are happy for his success in #Sochi.— ussnowboarding (@ussnowboarding) February 19, 2014
Justin Reiter of the United States., who slept in his truck while training for Sochi and didn't advance to Wednesday's final, was thrilled for his friend:
Meanwhile, fellow competitor Jasey Jay Anderson of Canada said Wild had no other choice but to move to Russia if he wanted to fulfill his dreams of winning Olympic gold.
"The way the U.S. treated Vic, I can't blame him at all," Anderson told Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times before the event. " ... He was left in the cold, put out in the cold. Every bad word in the book was done to him.
"I hope he does well here today just to thumb his nose at everyone that actually backstabbed him."
[Video: Ted Ligety wins giant slalom gold]
We're not well versed in the international snowboard soap opera drama and so it's impossible to make any sort of comment on Anderson's charges. Maybe the American side watched an American-born competitor climb the podium to accept a gold medal for another country and vowed to not let it happen again. Maybe it was just fine watching the scene because, hey, numbers are numbers and maybe there will be more resources in the future, but there sure weren't enough for 2014.
Either way, nothing's going to change what happened on Wednesday. And nothing is going to change the way that Wild feels about his new country, which gave him an opportunity to win gold.
“I don’t even think about me being American anymore,” Wild said to NBC's OlympicTalk before the games. “I’m Russian. I might not speak Russian fluently, and I might not totally understand the culture, but I live there. I’m not some American guy who lives in America and wants to snowboard for Russia because it’s easier. If anything, I went the hard way.”
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