Snowboarding: Old is gold, Americans say experience counts at Games

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner have been competing with athletes half their age in the team snowboarding cross event at the Beijing Games but the U.S. veterans proved nothing beats experience by winning gold in a nail-biting final.

Jacobellis, 36, and 40-year-old Baumgartner edged out Italy to win the top prize in the inaugural mixed team event, while Canada settled for bronze.

Italy's team consisted of Omar Visintin, 32, and Michela Moioli, 26, while Canada fielded 20-year-old Eliot Grondin and Meryeta O'Dine, 24.

Baumgartner admitted that it had been "tough" to watch younger athletes take over the sport and that he had struggled with feelings of being pushed out of the field.

However, he also used those feelings as motivation.

"As you get older, you grow and you know so much about yourself. For me ... you get hungry. You want more because you know that there's an expiration day that's coming," he told reporters after the final.

Being older than his rivals had also pushed him to train and compete even harder than his younger rivals.

Jacobellis, who made a surprise comeback at the women's snowboard cross final this week and won the first gold for the United States at the Beijing Games, said the pair's age and experience had helped them, not held them back.

Jacobellis said they were able to navigate the many variables of the final like weather, course condition and other competitors because of they had competed so many times in the past.

"It takes years to understand how to best execute certain situations," Jacobellis said.

Baumgartner agreed.

"We've been through so many heats and that's what allows us to stay competitive for so long," he added.

Asked if they planned to defend their title at the next Winter Games, Baumgartner said "absolutely".

Touting his Midwestern work ethic and his summer job as a concrete worker in construction, Baumgartner said he was "not afraid to work hard".

"We'll keep working hard and we'll keep fighting because some day soon I'm not going to be able to compete at this level," Baumgartner said.

Jacobellis, on the other hand, was in no rush to make a decision.

The double gold medallist recently wrote a children's book and had received a personal training certificate during the pandemic and said she was open to other options.

Shortly after the final, Baumgartner had an important message to all the competitors at the Olympics.

"Don't count the old people out, ever!" he said.


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