ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The story doesn't have to end with a win.
Oh, Lindsey Jacobellis knows it would be great if it did — "My story could be, 'Third time's a charm.' Who knows?" she says. But she also knows life will go on no matter what happens Feb. 16 in the mountains above Sochi.
The fact, she says, that she's even getting a third chance to win the Olympic gold medal in snowboardcross that has eluded her — all her fault the first time, something much different the second — is a victory all by itself.
Now 28 and having spent the last two years under the radar while dealing with a torn-up knee, Jacobellis won the Winter X Games on Friday — her second victory of the season and more proof to the world that, yes, she is still someone to be reckoned with.
"I know I'm in contention," Jacobellis said. "I have to be on that day and really riding well for it to all come together. But it can happen."
At the Olympics, she could win, finish second, fifth or 25th and nobody familiar with this sport would be surprised with any of those results. Such is life in snowboardcross, the full-contact version of snowboard racing, where they ride six-wide down the mountain and being the best all season doesn't guarantee much on any given day.
For so many years, Jacobellis was the rider to beat. Winning became more of a relief than a celebration.
And when she did celebrate — well, it didn't always turn out so well.
She will always have to live with the showy backside method grab she pulled on the second-to-last jump at the Turin Games, when she was well in the clear, on her way to gold. She fell. Had to settle for silver. The Lindsey Leap goes down as one of the biggest gaffes in Olympic history.
"She's seen what can happen," said her coach, Peter Foley. "She's seen herself win all kinds of great stuff and seen what happens when she doesn't win and she's still OK. She's got the bigger perspective on it."
Jacobellis said that perspective helps her enjoy the sport more now than when she was young.
"I just did it because I was awesome at it, and I was expected to do it and I was winning," she said. "Then, all of the sudden, it became an Olympic sport and I was the favorite and I was supposed to win and it didn't happen. It was a hard thing for me to deal with at a very young age."
In Vancouver in 2010, Jacobellis was one of the favorites again. She got tangled up with Maelle Ricker on the first jump in the semifinal race. Veered off course. Ended up winning the fifth-place race by a mile. That loss was easier to explain.