Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis takes part in the opening ceremony for… (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty…)
If Lindsey Jacobellis didn't grab her snowboard, fall, and finish second in the snowboard cross in the 2006 Olympics, she probably wouldn't be in Sochi.
"I look back and say, if I ever won the gold in 2006, I probably wouldn't be in the sport," Jacobellis said. "I was pushed so hard at a young age and didn't even realize that I loved it then. I know for a fact I love it now. Winning the gold [in Sochi] would actually make me look back more on my silver in 2006 and say, 'I'm glad I stuck with it and decided to do it because it made me the individual I am today.'"
The Olympic snowboard cross is Sunday, and it has been a long road back for Jacobellis, 28. She has been the sport's most dominant female athlete, winning three world championships and seven gold medals in the X Games. But what most people remember is her grabbing her board — some called it showboating — and falling in Turin, Italy, causing her to finish second.
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She didn't get to the medal round in 2010 in Vancouver. In the semifinals, Jacobellis, trying to regain her balance after a jump, hit a gate, which meant disqualification.
Then, during a training run at the 2012 X Games, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage in her left knee.
After almost a year her knee was not quite right, so she had another surgery in December 2012. This time, doctors used an ACL from a cadaver rather than her own hamstring, which they had used the first time.
"After months and months of training, it still wasn't starting to heal great," she said. "I went in for another test after 10 months, and the ACL from my hamstring had been slowly stretching. It was not giving me the stability I was hoping for. My meniscus healed really well."
Last December, she won gold at a World Cup in Lake Louise, Canada. She is considered the favorite in Sochi.
It doesn't bother her, she said, that people might remember her only for her fall in 2006.
"People now remember me and they remember the sport," she said. "And they want to tune in. They want to see what's going to happen and see how exciting it is, and all those uncontrollable variables [are] what makes our sport really great."
Veteran snowboarder Nate Holland said Jacobellis is one of the best competitors he knows.
"She's fierce," Holland said. "There's a lot of pressure on her to do well. In my opinion, she's the best women's boardcrosser in the world, and she has been for years. And so it's easy ... if [she] doesn't do well, to take a potshot at her and try to knock her down a little bit. As far as do I think that's a motivating factor? Yeah, bracing not to fail is always a motivating factor when you're expected to win."
In 2006, Jacobellis said after the event that she was caught up in the moment and grabbed the board.
"I think every now and then, you might see something like that," she said then. "I didn't even think twice. I was having fun, and that's what snowboarding is. I was ahead. I wanted to share with the crowd my enthusiasm. I messed up. It happens.''
Eight years later, Jacobellis says she is not looking for redemption.
"Absolutely not," she said. "When you come to any event, it's really embracing where you are and trying your best. There's no situation that's ever going to be the same. In all my years of racing — I've been now racing for 16 years — I've never had a situation again like that. I'm always trying to do my best and win, but that doesn't always happen."