- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Alpine Olympics/World Cup
- Published: February 22, 2014
Now here's a whole new twist on the old tale of the talented mountain kid who commits to summer training on Mount Hood to get to the next level, and then a few years later goes on to do amazing things.
Vic Wild, a 27-year-old snowboard racer from White Salmon, Washington, grew up riding Mt. Hood Meadows and training year-round on Mount Hood. He was a snowboard race camper at Mt. Hood Summer Ski and Snowboard Camps in 1996 and 1997 when he was nine and 10, just a few years after Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety attended the same camp. He also returned to serve as a coach at the Mt. Hood camp in 2011. By that point he was training hard for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but not necessarily for the United States.
The reason has to do with money. There is a lot of money in snowboarding, but the bulk of it funnels into freeriding in the backcountry for creative film edits and freestyling in the parks and pipes, with the glamor and money of the X Games and the Dew Tour. Snowboard racing just never really caught on in the U.S., and Wild simply was not receiving the support he needed to train properly for the Olympics. The total budged for the snowboarding team the year he left it was just $135,000, according to Vic Wild's Wikipedia page.
After three years of riding for the U.S. team, Wild cut ties with his home country because, as he recently told NBC Sports, "their focus was in other areas."
So he married his girlfriend, world champion snowboard racer Alena Zavarzina of Russia. and in 2011 he applied to become a Russian citizen, competing for the fully funded Russian team.
Not long ago such a move would have labeled Vic Wild a Communist defector. In the current political climate he is just another American expat who did what he needed to do.
The move paid off for Russia in terms of national pride when Wild and Zavarzina won matching husband-and-wife Olympic medals in snowboarding parallel giant slalom this week. Zavarzina won bronze in the women's races and Wild won gold. They became only the second married couple in Winter Olympic history to win two medals in the same event, and they earned glowing praise from the Voice of Russia, which tweeted "Hurrayyy for Russia!" to 16,000 followers.
A few days later Vic Wild followed up with another gold medal, this time in the parallel slalom.
Here is Vic's official statement about his birth nation, the nation that adopted him, and his Olympic victories:
"Russia is a country that made it possible for me to win. Had I stayed in the US, I'd probably be still sitting at home, doing some ordinary job, doing something banal, and not interesting. I always wanted something different.
"It is just amazing that I won this gold for Russia. Some may think, 'This guy still stays American.' But that is not true! I am not some American guy that decided it would be easier to get to the Olympics in a country where snowboarding is not developed that well. I have chosen a difficult path, and I have walked it to the end."
For a time it looked like the U.S. team's decision not to support Wild and his support could cost America the coveted crown of winning the most medals in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. But in the end, Russia won with 33 overall medals and 13 golds, compared to 28 medals and nine golds for the United States. Even if Wild had competed for his home country, Russia would have won the medal count by one medal. But the gold medal race would have ended in a tie.