I’m feeling pretty heartbroken right now. —Cottonwood Heights native Faye Gulini
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Lindsey Jacobellis didn’t earn the Olympic gold medal that has eluded the most decorated woman in the sport of snowboard cross, but she got something that Utah’s Faye Gulini would have loved to have — the chance to race when it mattered.
“I just wanted to race,” said the 25-year-old Cottonwood Heights native, who fell on a unique first feature of the course that required athletes to control their speed or risk flying too far into the next feature. “It’s super rare that we have to hold back speed, and I struggle with it. I always have. But I just wanted to do it right. I wanted to do everything right. Even though it was a move I’m not he best at, I wanted to do it.”
And then she pauses, fighting back tears, and adds with a smile, “In hindsight, I wouldn’t do it again. I’d land in the middle of that next feature and figure it out. I just wanted to race. I was feeling so good, so confident. I’m fast, I’m healthy, like mentally, physically everything was there. Had it been anywhere else (on the course) that I’d made a mistake and fallen, I honestly would have probably given it a push. You can’t get up there. If I got my chance to race, I could have done it. I’m feeling pretty heartbroken right now.”
Friday’s crash at the start of the quarterfinals was made a more bitter pill because she did so well in qualifying. She qualified with the third fastest time of the seeding rounds, one spot ahead of Jacobellis.
It was, she said through tears, tougher to accept than her fourth-place finish in Sochi.
Jacobellis rode in the final, but gave up the lead on the final stretch of the course, which was a series of jumps and turns that left her in fourth place overall.
Michaela Moioli, Italy, won gold, while France’s Julia Pereira De Sousa Mabileau earned silver and Eva Samkova, Czech Republic, earned bronze.
Samkova earned the fastest time in qualifying, while Moioli was the second fastest in the seeding round. Pereira De Sousa Mabileau needed the second round of qualifications just to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
It has become an Olympic tradition for media members to wonder whether Jacobellis, who owns more individual accolades than any other snowboard cross athlete, including world championships, X Games titles and World Cup championships, will finally earn the gold medal that some say she threw away in her Olympic debut of 2006.
On the second to last jump, she attempted a method grab, and ended up falling, which allowed Tanja Frieden, Switzerland, to pass her, forcing her to take home silver.
She finished fifth in 2010 and seventh in 2014.
Still, Gulini said Jacobellis has accomplished a lot for herself and the sport, and both of them plan to continue to help girls and women find their way into snowboard cross.
“If nothing else, it gave our sport a ton of recognition,” Gulini said. “When I tell people what I do, the first thing they say is, ‘That’s the sport where the girl threw away the gold medal.’ And I’m like, at least you know what I do.”
And she points out, there isn’t much Jacobellis hasn’t done in her 20-year career.
“She’s pioneered the sport,” Gulini said. “She’s a really talented snowboarder. People constantly ask, ‘So you feel bad for her? Don’t you think she deserves it?’ She’s done incredible for herself. There are a lot of athletes whose results don’t measure up to who they are. She’s the best at this sport.”
Gulini plans to participate in an event Jacobellis is hosting in California later this year called ‘Super Girl’ that aims to introduce, mentor and support women in snowboard cross from youths to professionals.
Gulini said she will take some time to go to school at Westminster and take care of some old injuries, but she is far from finished with the unpredictable sport.
"I'll be staying with the sport," she said. "I"m not done yet. I'm more passionate than I've ever been. I'm seeing massive improvements in my snowboarding, and by massive I mean super tiny. But that's all I need at this point. It's the compilation of all these tiny steps that I've made over the years that have gotten me to the top. I just need more miles, I need more time to put it all together, and make it all work."