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Tyler Tate, FR171662 AP
Mick Dierdorff, front, of the United States, crosses the finish line first to win the men's snowboard cross final at the Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Solitude, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

SOLITUDE — Snowboarder Mick Dierdorff seemed destine for great things from a young age.

“Starting out as a little kid, I was one of the best little phenoms out there,” the 27-year-old Steamboat Springs, Colorado, resident said. “I was the youngest male to win the North American Cup Tour, got right into the World Cup when I was 17, 18, and I did horrible.”

For some, that might have been evidence that he should give up the sport, get a real job and move on with life.

For Dierdorff, it was simply the up and down of what he called “a rollercoaster,” with incredible highs and more than few heartbreaks. In the end, he said, the sport has taken him around the world, to an Olympic Games, and the chance to race against some great athletes and even better human beings.

“I think it’s just perseverance and never giving up and having the fire to just keep going,” he said, and then he pointed to his parents in the back of the room where the post-competition press conference was being held, and added, “And the support behind me. Just never give up. That’s kind of been my whole career, knowing that I can always keep pushing myself, keep giving my best effotrt, and we have those little sparks of brilliance.”

That spark was thrilling on a picture-perfect day at Solitude Mountain Resort. In a photo finish, Dierdorff edged Austria’s Hanno Douschan and Italy’s Emanuel Perathoner to earn his first World Championship — and the first international victory of his career.

“It’s the craziest feeling,” he said. “Our team has forever been one of the strongest in the boarder cross in the world. … It’s so cool to be part of that tradition that we’ve had. … To come out on top, it’s surreal, and I’m so stoked.”

Junior world champion Jake Vedder, a rising star for the U.S., team won the small final to claim fifth place.

The irony is that Dierdorff started as a ski racer. Then, after switching to snowboarding, he fancied himself a big-trick specialist.

“I didn’t want to race,” he said, smiling. “I liked freestyle. And my coach said, ‘Nick, you’re just good at going fast. You’ve got to get in here and you’re going to love it. I won my frist couple of races as a little kid, and I was hooked.”

The women had a new champion for the first time in six years as American Lindsey Jacobellis didn’t make the finals after a training accident made her questionable for the start Friday. Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic won her first World Championship, edging Great Britain’s Charlotte Bankes and defending Olympic Champion Michela Moioli of Italy.

“I knew that trying to win six back-to-back would be truly challenging, especially with how the level of women’s riding has just gotten more and more intense,” Jacobellis said after finishing fifth by winning the Small Final. “It’s really exciting to see that growth and to be a part of it still, but I knew the challenge was present. I knew everything was just going to have to be dialed in and on. … I had a little trouble this week in practice, got a little banged up, not feeling so great, not able to execute training like I wanted to.”

Each woman on the podium said the field has been getting stronger for women for the last few years.

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“The girls are getting stronger and bertter, more trying to be like the boys,” said newly crowned World champion Samkova. “I think the victory, maybe because I should wait for it, I appreciate it even more. … I still think our sport is not so much about the medals. You can have fun, enjoy great day of riding, but still, the medal is the medal. I tried not to put pressure on me before the race.”

THe FIS World Championships continued with the Big Air Competition at the Canyons Village in Park City on Saturday. The event begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and features some of the best freestyle skiers, including Olympic medalist Nick Goepper.