After all the disruptions caused by Monday's fog, this year's Winter Olympics finally welcomed the men's snowboard cross competition to the fore. France's Pierre Vaultier emerged with a gold medal to his name.
Snowboard cross sits as one of the most anticipated events of the Games—fast, ferocious and everything that an adrenaline addict could want from an occasion of this magnitude, so it's just as well the stars didn't disappoint.
Nikolay Olyunin of Russia and Team USA's Alex Deibold won silver and bronze, respectively, after the tightest of finishes decided who came down first and fastest at Sochi's Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
|1||Big Final||Pierre Vaultier (Gold)||FRA|
|2||Big Final||Nikolay Olyunin (Silver)||RUS|
|3||Big Final||Alex Deibold (Bronze)||USA|
|4||Big Final||Paul-Henri de le Rue||FRA|
|5||Big Final||Stian Sivertzen||NOR|
|6||Big Final||Luca Matteotti||ITA|
|7||Small Final||Lucas Eguibar||ESP|
|8||Small Final||Kevin Hill||CAN|
|9||Small Final||Trevor Jacob||USA|
|10||Small Final||Hanno Douschan||AUT|
|11||Small Final||Cameron Bolton||AUS|
|12||Small Final||Omar Visintin||ITA|
The fog in Sochi's mountains just started to creep back into view by the time Tuesday's big final came upon the schedule, but riders just managed to get their start before any sort of postponement was required, as it was on Monday.
Vaultier's win is made all the more incredible by the fact it was only in December of last year that the Frenchman ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, recovering in fairy-tale fashion to win the biggest honour available in his trade.
BBC Sport confirmed the triumph:
BBC Sport's Nick Hope has this from Vaultier:
First Frenchman or not, it's incredible. I had a knee three times the (normal) size and did my cruciate ligament.
Fifteen days ago I was doing everything to be here for this - what's happening to me is just incredible!
The most successful boardercross rider of all time, Vaultier didn't get the best of starts and instead saw eventual runner-up Olyunin glide out of the barriers fastest.
However, it didn't take long before Vaultier was back among the reckoning alongside compatriot Paul-Henri de le Rue. These two were the only compatriot pairing of the big final, a partnership that some may suggest would have tipped the balance in France's favour.
Olyunin managed to maintain pace at the front. Meanwhile, around the slope's halfway mark, we saw Italian Luca Matteotti fall first at the back of the pile.
Will Graves of the Associated Press described just how tenaciously home favourite Olyunin tried to take back his lead:
Fantabulous racing by Vaultier. Three times Olyunin (who was the fastest out there) had a bead on him, three times he fended Russian off— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) February 18, 2014
At the same time as Matteotti's fall, Vaultier assumed the lead, and that was all she wrote. From there, despite Olyunin's attempts to find the inside seam once more, Vaultier's control of speed and ease over the jumps was nothing short of sheer class.
Deibold looked to stake some claim on the top finishing places, but hiccups here and there meant third place was all the American could settle for in the end.
Vaultier's win was every bit the climactic finish that an event of this variety craves, and the only negative of the quicksilver extravaganza is that it can't last just that little bit longer.
This year's champion will be 30 by the time the 2018 Olympics rolls around in Pyeongchang, South Korea, so Vaultier may yet have another surprise to spring as the biggest name in the event.
The win means a third gold of the Games for France, who have no fewer than four athletes participating in the men's ski halfpipe qualification later on Tuesday. They'll hope to move up from their current position of 11th in the medal count.