KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Facing a nearly impossible deficit against a four-time world champion he'd never outraced, all the unorthodox choices snowboarder Vic Wild made to keep his career alive converged over 30 glorious seconds of perfection.
His banged-up body patched together by the best doctors his adopted country can provide, his perfectly assembled board riding like a lightning bolt, his newfound fans screaming his name and waving a very different kind of red, white and blue, the man who eschewed his homeland for his heart, made Olympic history.
Gold for Russia. Again. And maybe more than a little vindication too.
Wild rallied to victory in the men's parallel slalom on Saturday, stunning Austria's Benjamin Karl in the semifinal then edging Zan Kosir by .11 seconds to cap four dizzying days that validated his decision three years ago to marry Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina and move to Moscow with his talent in tow.
The 27-year-old native of White Salmon, Wash., but now residing in Moscow won the parallel giant slalom Wednesday then bookended it with an even more stunning triumph in the Olympic debut of the shorter, trickier parallel slalom race.
The roars of "Vitya" still ringing in his ears after a raucous flower celebration, Wild exhaled; the pressure valve that's been a fixture in his life since he left the U.S. was finally released.
"I continued snowboarding because I thought I could do something special," he said. "I thought I had never reached my potential (in the U.S.) and I wanted to see how good I could get. That's why I'm a Russian."
Yep, a "full-on Russian," as his brother, Mike, calls him.
One who was burned out and frustrated by a lack of attention from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which pours more resources into the halfpipe and slopestyle, where Americans captured five medals.
Wild's relationship with Zavarzina led to a Siberian wedding in 2011. His new passport provided better support from a lightly regarded Russian team anxious to make a splash in Sochi.
It culminated in the kind of success Wild refused to dream about while competing for his native country. He even received congratulations Saturday from President Vladimir Putin, who praised Wild for proving that "sports fate smiles on the most talented, driven and strongest in spirit."
Wild's win in the PGS came 10 minutes after his wife earned bronze in the same event. Zavarzina didn't make it out of the elimination round on Saturday, but was there at the finish line as her husband put together the run of a lifetime.
A rare miscue in the first round of the semifinals left Wild trailing Karl by 1.12 seconds — the equivalent of a football team losing by 10 with 1 minute left. Sprinting down the decidedly faster blue course, Wild's hand crossed the line a scant .04 ahead of Karl. Wild flexed in euphoria after finally topping the 2010 silver medalist.
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