WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — She did it again!
Looking to redeem herself after giving away a victory four years ago in Italy, Lindsey Jacobellis' return trip to the Olympics was even worse.
Early in her semifinal race on the snowboardcross course Tuesday, she lost her bearings on a jump, wobbled and skittered to try to regain her balance.
Instead, she barreled through a gate and veered off course.
The most decorated, successful and dominant rider in the world didn't even make the medal round that was later won by Canada's Maelle Ricker.
"I do so many competitions a year," Jacobellis said, coming in for an interview more than an hour after the race. "It's unfortunate the rest of the world only sees this race, or four years ago. So I guess I don't have a great track record for the general public."
Four years ago, she was alone in the lead, the gold medal all but hanging around her neck, when she celebrated by shooting over the second-to-last jump while doing a fancy grab of the board — a method grab — that left her on her back, in shock, needing to gather herself and get across the line to salvage the silver.
This time, she dusted herself off and looped back onto the course to the finish. Riding alone, and knowing everyone was watching a finish that meant nothing, she did a much safer grab with both hands.
She stuck the landing this time, but it didn't matter.
"I just felt like doing a nice, fun truck-driver grab, and that's the spirit that it is," she said. "I mean, it's a bummer, but then it came off and I was like, 'Still can have some fun in some way.'"
The real fun, though, was saved for Ricker, who easily defeated Deborah Anthonioz of France in the final. Olivia Nobs of Switzerland won the bronze.
Even in Canada, where they were celebrating their second gold medal of the Olympics, very few thought the story would end this way. Not so surprising that Ricker won, but shocking that she didn't have to beat her main rival with the gold on the line.
"I don't know what happened to Lindsey in the semifinals," Ricker said. "We both had a really close start going into the first and second corner, and I don't know what happened."
Not that she was complaining. Ricker is the top-ranked rider in the world this year, who had her own making up to do because of that 2006 Olympic final.
Long before Jacobellis hot-dogged her jump, fell and blew her huge lead, Ricker lost her balance and went flying off the course and into the netting. She had to be taken off the course on a stretcher with a concussion. Four years later, she says she doesn't remember much from that day but felt like there was some unfinished business to take care of. What better place to do it than at Cypress Mountain, in her hometown of West Vancouver.
"Definitely it was a huge motivating factor to work that much harder," Ricker said.
With Jacobellis out of the way, the final was a breeze.
After Helene Olafsen of Norway wiped out early in the race, Ricker took a huge lead on Anthonioz — think Jacobellis and her massive lead in the 2006 final — and did nothing to mess it up.
Moments earlier, in one of the most cruel ironies of the day, Jacobellis enjoyed a similar finish. But that was in the fifth-place race, the race that the semifinal losers are relegated to — and certainly not one Jaco thought she's be participating in on this day.
In the immediate aftermath of her mistake four years ago, Jacobellis tried to play it off, said she was grabbing the board for stability, no big deal. Called out by her coaches and teammates, she quickly changed her tune and said that, yeah, she might have been doing too much there.
But, hey, that's snowboarding.
Pretty much everyone inside that world forgave her, told the outsiders not to take themselves so seriously. And she went on dominating, winning the last three Winter X Games to bring her total to six, renewing sponsorship deals and talking about how silver wasn't all that bad a color.
The Olympics are a much bigger audience, though, and this was her time to show the people outside her own world that she could deliver on the biggest stage. On her mother's birthday, no less, a date she'd circled on the calendar for a long time as the day she could set the past aside.
"Sometimes you can't control the things that you want to, and you just have those in boardercross sometimes," she said. "I've had a great career and I've been really dominant in it and sometimes I fall into funks where things like that happen."
Earlier in the day, after two brutal rounds of qualifying that sent more than half the riders tumbling, Jacobellis acknowledged she was having difficulty with a slushy, slippery course full of ruts, courtesy of rain and warm weather that has plagued Cypress all month.
She wasn't the only one who struggled. The 2006 bronze medalist, Dominique Maltais of Canada, couldn't stay upright for either of her qualifying runs and didn't make the final 16. Ricker fell on her first run and had to pick her way carefully through the rutted-up course on her second to guarantee her spot in the heats.
Jacobellis was one of the few to make it through both runs unscathed, a testament to her technical ability, to say nothing of her resolve.
Once the main event begins in snowboardcross, the riders are grouped in fours, and two people advance from each round.
So, even though Jacobellis was paired with Ricker in the semifinal, it figured they would both make it to the medal round, then could duke it out for the championship.
They were almost shoulder to shoulder on the jump where it all unraveled.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Jacobellis might manage to stay upright coming out of the jump. She reached her hands out, wobbled. For a second, it looked like she was back on track. But she lost control again, veered across the course and ran into the outside of the gate.
"My board just finally caught up and then it, like, threw me in a direction through the panel," she said.
She raised her hands in the air, draped them across her head.
Yep. That just happened. Again.
"So I just said, 'Well, nothing you can do about it now,'" Jacobellis said.