Jacobellis, Hill take boardercross gold; Keith Gabel wins first Winter X Games Snowboard X Adaptive race
The Aspen Times
The battle of the boardercross raged Friday at the Winter X Games in Aspen.
Elimination rounds and finals were staged in all three boardercross events Men’s Snowboard X, Women’s Snowboard X and Snowboarder X Adaptive.
The high-intensity, side-by-side racing produced drama from the opening heats Friday morning on the Jacob’s Ladder run midway up Buttermilk.
By the last heats Friday afternoon, a smiling Lindsey Jacobellis had re-established herself as the all-time queen of X Games boardercross.
Canadian Kevin Hill won all three of his heat races and won the men’s gold.
Keith Gabel, of Ogden, Utah, won the first gold medal in Snowboarder X Adaptive, which previously was a demonstration sport.
Friday’s X Adaptive was marred by a crash and subsequent injury to two-sport adaptive athlete Mike Schultz, of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Schultz, an above-the-knee amputee, also was scheduled to compete in Snowmobile Snocross Adaptive at the 2015 Winter X Games.
However, Schultz was loaded onto a toboggan after crashing in the semifinals. He eventually was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital.
After suffering an apparent ankle injury, Schultz offered a thumbs-up to spectators from the toboggan.
Gabel, meanwhile, won his first X Games medal and first X Games gold.
“This is what I wanted. I’m so pumped,” Gabel said, “I had a fast reaction time, and I had to stay focused.”
Gabel, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team, said the X Games competition is a showcase for adaptive athletes.
“We have the best guys in the world here who do what we do,” Gabel, 28, said.
New Zealand’s Carl Murphy won the silver with 19-year-old Canadian Alex Massie winning bronze.
Massie has been riding as an adaptive snowboarder for only three years.
“I’ve been chasing this one hard,” said Kevin Hill, Men’s Snowboarder X winner who is from Vernon, British Columbia. “This one means everything to me. I’m on cloud nine with this gold medal.”
He offered a shout-out to his wax technician after Friday’s win.
“I’ve never felt faster on a snowboard,” Hill said. “I can’t believe how dialed-in the wax was today.”
Omar Visintin, a 25-year-old from Italy, won silver.
Boardercross legend Nate Holland won bronze, adding to his growing collection of X Games medals. He’s now the owner of 10 Winter X medals, including seven golds.
“I applaud the two riders in front of me,” said Holland, 36. “They rode their hearts out. I’m totally satisfied with a third.”
Holland, who trains in the Tahoe, California, area and operates a watersports business in his hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho, said he gets psyched up for the X Games every year.
“I get jitters just rolling into the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said, adding that the competition was top-notch from the opening run.
“These kids are heavy hitters, man,” Holland said. “All day long, it was no joke.”
But holding to his lifelong snowboarding philosophy, Holland said he came to Winter X with one mission.
“I came here to have fun and do my best.”
“We put so much stress on the competitions,” Jacobellis, 29, said after extending her record as the female athlete with the most Winter X gold medals in history with nine. “You need to make sure you go out and ride and have fun.”
She said making sure snowboarding is fun has been the key to her success, including winning gold two weeks ago at the FIS World Championships.
“I got lucky today in that I didn’t get tangled up. It could have easily gone the other way.”
Dominique Maltais, 34, of Canada, won the silver medal. She also won silver last year at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Nelly Moenne Loccoz , a 23-year-old from France, won bronze in Women’s Snowboarder X.
In a qualifying event Friday, Mark McMorris led the field in Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle heading into Sunday’s finals.
Stale Sandbach was the No. 2 qualifer.
U.S. Olympian Sage Kotsenburg qualified fifth.
The finals will be Sunday morning.
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