KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia —
Italy’s Omar Visintin loomed as a threat until colliding with Australia’s Jarryd Hughes in the semifinals, going head-first over a pair of step-down ramps and being taken off on a stretcher.
Taylor Jacob, the youngest and perhaps most naturally gifted rider on the U.S. team, saw his spot in the finals taken by Deibold, who edged Jacob aside at the finish after both spectacularly slid across the line on their backs.
The event was pushed back from Monday to Tuesday due to heavy fog. Conditions weren’t much better 24 hours later as the drizzle slowed the 750-meter track, making passing difficult and put the ability to get out of the gates quickly at a premium.
“We compete in an outdoor sport, this is not something that uncommon,” Deibold said. “It’s one of the situations we prep ourselves for.”
Nobody was better than Vaultier and Olyunin, who led nearly wire to wire in his three races before the finals. He wasn’t quite as sharp when the gate dropped in the medal round as Vaultier sprinted to the front then fended him off three times before pulling away over the last two jumps.
“He is the embodiment of snowboardcross,” Olyunin said of Vaultier. “He is created for this and he deserved the medal.”
So did Olyunin, who seemed overcome by the prospect of being only the second Russian to win a medal with a snowboard attached to the bottom of their boots.
Though he considers himself a bit of a “pioneer,” Olyunin is still in the early stages of his career. He began the day ranked 20th in the world and ended it as the face of his sport in his homeland.
“I really want to be alone, I’m so tired,” Olyunin said. “Those delays, they really tired me. Yesterday was really hard for me but I decided ... to prove to Russia, that snowboarding does exist.”