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Unread 02-18-2006, 03:29 PM   #1
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Default I might not watch the Winter Olympics...but I bet this was interesting to watch.

Oh, no!
Jacobellis celebrates early -- and loses gold in fall
Posted: Friday February 17, 2006 7:14AM; Updated: Friday February 17, 2006 9:59AM

BARDONECCHIA, Italy (AP) -- Lindsey Jacobellis had the Olympic women's snowboardcross won, and then -- incredibly, inexcusably -- she made one last move on the next-to-last jump and fell.

She lost.

Coasting to what should have been an easy victory, the American grabbed her board on the way to the finish line. It caused her to fall and while she scrambled to her feet, Switzerland's Tanja Frieden sped past and became the first champion in the strange and wild sport of Olympic women's snowboardcross Friday.

Jacobellis won silver, but should have had the gold. She was well, well ahead of Frieden, and the other two women in the four-rider final had fallen long before.

Snowboarding is about style, though, so Jacobellis decided to show off for the fans in front of the grandstand near the end of her ride. But after she landed from her grab, she caught an edge, then went tumbling outside the blue line. When she recovered, she trailed Frieden over the finish line, then put her hands on her knees and held her palms up.

Jacobellis insisted she wasn't showing off.

"When you grab in boardercross you're trying to get back on the ground as fast as possible," she said. "You try to be stable in the air."

U.S. coach Peter Foley fell onto the ground in disbelief.

He said Jacobellis has always had a tendency to grab her board for stability, although very few U.S. boarders over the two days of racing -- which began with American Seth Wescott winning gold in the men's race -- were seen doing that.

"Sometimes it's subconscious, but that was putting on a show," Wescott said. "It's one of those things. I did it in my early rides yesterday but you've got to choose your time and make sure you don't miss."

That debate will linger. Either way, it was hard to think the only American rider in the women's finals -- one of the best in the world -- could blow this one.

But she did.

Her flub left the American contingent standing in the bleachers stunned and shocked -- Frieden, as well. She knew she had no business winning the gold.

Thus ended another strange and memorable day on the snowboardcross course, where it's the side-by-side racing that usually causes the thrills and spills.

That was very much the case at the top of the course in the finals. Canadian Maelle Ricker, the fastest woman in qualifying, came off a jump, rotated awkwardly, caught her backside edge on the landing and smacked her back and head onto the ground. She was taken off the course on a stretcher. She was conscious and was being taken to a hospital in Turin for observation.

A few moments later, teammate Dominique Maltais, the eventual bronze medalist, went careening into the netting after a jump.

That made it a two-woman show and it wasn't even a contest. Jacobellis could have practically crawled the rest of the way to the finish line. She probably wishes she had.

During the awards ceremony, she stood on the podium beneath Frieden and smiled, but there looked to be some tear stains there.

Jacobellis came into the Olympics as one of the best-known Americans, a poster child for her sport, to say nothing of the credit card company she endorsed. She'll also leave as a poster child for something much different -- the whole idea of making sure the victory is sealed before you celebrate.
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