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X Games: Jacobellis slips to silver at the finish of a tight race

January 28, 2007|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

ASPEN, Colo. — This time, there was no hot-dogging with a lead close to the finish line.

But the choice condiment nonetheless flew off for Lindsey Jacobellis.

Again, from a jump situated tantalizingly close to the end of a tricky Snowboarder X course.

Whoa! Splat!

Again, for the snowboarder from Stratton, Vt., a gold medal faded to silver.

And once again, more obvious questions from a piqued media, such as, "Was the blunder at Bardonecchia on your mind as you approached that jump?"

But this time, Jacobellis was not present to face a grilling such as the one she endured at the Turin Games, when showboating and a subsequent fall cost her the gold.

It's too bad for her, too, as this was a situation not open to criticism. Her fall was simply that: the kind of thing that happens during hotly contested competition on fast, tight courses.

In this instance, the fall on the final jump allowed Joanie Anderson to squeak by for the gold while Jacobellis, spinning across the finish line on her back, edged Maelle Ricker for the silver.

"The finish was definitely insane," Anderson said. "I could tell she was squirming around and stuff, so I made my way over to the right, then she blew up and I was able to make it."

Jacobellis explained via a phone interview that she was icing a possible sprained ankle and merely "feeling a bit beat up after the week I've had."

Undoubtedly, her ego was a bit bruised as well, but it had been a rocky few days for the world's top-ranked boarder-cross racer, who came into the X Games as the reigning world champion, undefeated in three events this season.

On Thursday, she suffered a concussion after a nasty fall during halfpipe practice, forcing her to withdraw from that night's superpipe final.

On Friday, she arrived with a headache to Snowboarder X qualifying and managed to qualify second, behind Tanja Frieden, the rider awarded the gold at the Turin Games.

Jacobellis said that what happened in Italy was not an issue as she approached the final jump near the base of Buttermilk Mountain. She merely lost balance while airborne and caught an edge upon landing.

That was the same excuse she used at Bardonecchia, until being shamed into admitting that she was trying to add style to her finish with a trick known as a method air.

Had she tried that trick here, it might have had a stabilizing effect and all would be golden in her topsy-turvy world.

"It was real tricky," she said. "You have to turn immediately after landing or you go off-course."

The race was closer than the Olympic competition, though three riders, including Frieden, tangled near the top and fell out of contention.

With Jacobellis leading, Anderson caught and bumped her opponent, but it caused her to drift while Jacobellis held her line.

Anderson and Ricker trailed by about two board lengths as the riders reached the final jump. Jacobellis' arms flailed in the air and she caught her backside edge upon landing, and she fell hard onto her back.

It was a rough day for sure, but a marvelous one for Anderson, 20, who claimed her first X Games gold.

"The last time I beat Lindsey was five or six years ago," she said. "So I was waiting for an opportunity."

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A golden memory with no medal at stake

Jacobellis may have become jaded toward reporters in the wake of relentless questioning about an issue she has long put behind her.

It has made her appear standoffish and surly, which is a shame because she's only 21 and has an innocent side not often revealed.

For example, she said that laying an egg at the Turin Games was not her biggest disappointment of 2006. Rather, it was "a bummer" not being able to search for eggs in Vermont.

Knee surgery after the Olympics forced her to miss the spring Easter-egg hunt at Stratton Mountain, and she recalled with longing sincerity the time she and her father found the top prize: a golden watermelon buried in the snow.

It remains a memory she would not trade for all the gold in Italy.

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Youth served

Jamie Anderson soared and spun to the top of Saturday's snowboarding slopestyle competition, and into X Games lore.

At 16, she's the youngest competitor in this year's X Games and the youngest gold medalist in X Games history.

"It has been my goal since I was like 9," she said.

Jamie is Joanie Anderson's little sister.

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Monkey business

Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott kept his Snowboarder X streak alive at the X Games: no gold medals in 10 tries.

"The monkey's still hanging on my back," he said, after taking the bronze behind Frenchman Xavier de le Rue and Nate Holland.

Holland also won in 2006.

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Have lead foot, will travel

The new generation of halfpipe specialists -- the final is tonight's marquee event -- has one thing in common: youth, fearlessness and a craving for speed.

Danny Davis, for example, recently bought his first automobile and before the X Games drove from Vermont to Southern California with fellow competitors Kevin Pearce and Jack Mitrani.

They made it without getting pulled over. However, Davis, says, "Then I drove to Mammoth and got my first speeding ticket 15 minutes out of town. I was punching 90 and it was 1 a.m."

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More winners and losers

Norway's Andreas Wigg won the men's snowboard slopestyle competition. Finland's Jussi Oksanen was second and Shaun White, trying for a fifth consecutive win in the event, took third.... Tucker Hibbert won the snocross event, taking the early lead from Ryan Simons, who finished second.... Tyler Walker won the Mono Skier X competition. Sarah Will was, at fourth, the top female competitor in the mixed competition.... White qualified first for tonight's superpipe final with a score of 93.33.... Sanna Tidstrand of Sweden, who took a fall Friday during practice for the Skier X competition, was diagnosed with a severe concussion. She did not sustain broken ribs.

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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