Vic Wild of Russia celebrates after winning gold.
Vic Wild put on a snowboarding masterclass to win gold for Russia in the men's parallel giant slalom on Day 12 of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Washington-born American represents Russia after gaining citizenship through his wife, and he edged Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland into second with an exceptional comeback win.
Galmarini held a half-second advantage after the first run, but Wild flew out of the blocks and held his nerve to fight back in the second and force his opponent into a mistake.
Wild looked to be struggling on the first run after two mistakes played into the hands of Galmarini, but he did exceptionally well to maintain his cool and win gold for his adopted country.
As reported by Paul Sonne and Rachel Bachman in The Wall Street Journal, after quitting the United States team, Wild told the Russian Federation he would repay them if they took a chance on him:
"I told everybody in the Russian snowboard federation: If you guys take me, you'll never regret it," he said.
|Rank||Run||Country||Name||Run 1 Dif||Run 2 Diff|
|1||Big Final||Russia||Vic Wild||0.54||Winner|
|2||Big Final||Switzerland||Nevin Galmarini||2.14|
|3||Small Final||Slovenia||Zan Kosir||Winner|
|4||Small Final||Germany||Patrick Bussler||0.72||2.26|
Paul Sonne of The Wall Street Journal reflected on Wild's win that it could have been for the United States had proper funding been in place:
Vic Wild in many ways is a case study in how much good funding matters to performance in Olympic sports. http://t.co/H49p7EECS8— Paul Sonne (@PaulSonne) February 19, 2014
Wild celebrated his remarkable victory with his wife Alena Zavarzina, who won bronze in the women's equivalent of the event:
What a day at PGS: Vic Wild left US to become Russian citizen. Wins Gold for RUS. His Russian wife then wins Bronze! pic.twitter.com/H1aJUa47ND— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 19, 2014
Meanwhile, in the small final Zan Kosir of Slovenia won bronze, his first Olympic medal, while Germany's Patrick Bussler finished fourth.
Kosir overturned Bussler's early advantage in the first run to win against the odds, despite performing inconsistently and making more mistakes than his German opponent.
Bussler started the second run 0.72 seconds behind Kosir and made an early error to allow his opponent to open up a further lead. Although the German fought hard, he was unable to make up any significant ground on Kosir.
Wild's win marks an amazing journey from representing the United States to winning gold for his adopted country in their home games.
The 27-year-old is at the peak of his career, but like Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson, who won gold in Vancouver four years ago before failing to make the quarterfinals this time, Wild is unlikely to retain his medal in four years.