The medal round of the women’s snowboard cross commenced at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park without several major names. Absent was defending gold medalist Maelle Ricker, who crashed in her quarterfinal heat and failed to reach even the semifinals. Already dealing with a wrist injury that required surgery before she came to Sochi, Ricker would finish her title defense in 21st.
Helene Olafsen, the Norwegian who entered the 2014 Games as the X Games bronze medalist and fourth-placed snowboard cross racer on the World Cup, suffered a knee injury in qualifying and had to be helped off the course on a stretcher. Minutes later, American snowboarder Jackie Hernandez slammed her head on the slope in a crash near the bottom, losing consciousness and sustaining a concussion.
Missing as well was Lindsey Jacobellis, the American who hot-dogged her way from gold to silver in Torino eight years ago and followed it up by missing the big final in Vancouver. Just like in 2010, she would falter in the semifinals.
This time it was a crash rather than a disqualification that wiped out her chance at the podium. And unlike 2006, she wasn’t showboating. But as she fell on one of the final turns of the course, a big lead in hand and a ticket all but punched to the big final, the effect was the same.
And just like in 2010, Jacobellis was the winner of the small final — small consolation after entering Sochi as the X Games champion and favorite for a long-sought and ever-elusive gold medal.
Without Jacobellis or the other women in the big final, the battle for gold became a duel between the other two women at the top of this winter’s World Cup standings. Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic and Canada’s Dominique Maltais were the overwhelming favorites in the final field of six snowboarders, having dueled all season prior to Sochi. Everyone else would be forced to battle for bronze.
Just as she had done twice already during the season — including the final World Cup race before the Olympics at Vallnord, Andorra — the 20-year-old Samkova beat the 33-year-old Maltais to the bottom of the slope at Rosa Khutor. The Czech youngster, a three-time world junior champion, proved too much for the Canadian to handle in the final.
Just as she had in qualifying and in the semifinals, Samkova pulled ahead right out of the gate and left everyone else choking on the snow kicking up from her board and fighting for the podium scraps. Maltais would survive to take the silver, with French snowboarder Chloe Trespeuch beating out Faye Gulini of the United States for bronze.
Snowboard - Women's Slopestyle Medal Results