Pin It
Favorite

Downhill Racer 

by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's a long ride from the slopes at Schweitzer to the Winter Olympics' snowboardcross course at Bardonecchia, Italy. For Nate Holland -- whose hometown is Sandpoint, Idaho -- it's been a journey of 22 years. To win a gold medal, all he has to do is negotiate a downhill snowboarding course -- full of bumps, jumps, banked turns, all kinds of obstacles -- faster than 63 other guys.


They don't all race at once, of course. Snowboardcross -- sometimes called "boardercross," and a debut sport at the Turin Olympics -- models itself after motocross (the late-night sport on ESPN with guys on dirt bikes doing laps and popping like popcorn over insanely steep bumps), except that SBX has four snowboarders speeding downhill and jockeying for position all at once. Whoever gets to the bottom first wins.


With the International Olympic Committee finally awakening to the appeal of the X Games, snowboardcross joins the other two snowboarding flavors (the half-pipe and the parallel grand slalom) at this year's Olympics -- and has the potential to be the phenomenon in 2006 that short-track speed skating was in 2002 at Salt Lake City. Four guys rubbing elbows at 50 mph while strapped onto snowboards during a twisty downhill slide with plenty of potential for wipeouts -- this stuff is made for TV.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & ate Holland just might show up on your screen as part of the final foursome to race downhill for gold. After finishing 17th in the 2004 World Cup of SBX -- a series of boardercross events held mostly in Europe -- he shot up to third last year, winning the tour's October stop in Switzerland. He's ranked fourth overall this season, and he won the SBX event at the X Games held on Jan. 28 in Aspen, Colo.


Seth Wescott of Maine is the reigning world champ, so he gets most of the attention on the American squad. (Just last week, Wescott was on Letterman reading his "Top Ten Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Olympics," including "I hear Italy has the best Olive Garden restaurant in the world.") But Holland, who's having his best season yet, seems to be peaking at just the right time for the Olympics, where the Americans' chief competition will come from the Canadians, Austrians, Swiss and French. All three kinds of snowboarding events will be held in Bardonecchia (elev. 4,300 feet), a town of 3,000 on the French border, 90 minutes west of Turin.


Holland, 27, grew up freeriding at Schweitzer and 49 Degrees North, and he graduated from Sandpoint High School in 1997. He moved to the Lake Tahoe area when he was 20, taking menial jobs just so he could be around the snowboarding community and enter a few big-air competitions. Soon after Salt Lake City, when it was announced that snowboardcross would be on the program in 2006, the U.S. Olympic Committee invited a dozen top SBX specialists to a training camp at Oregon's Mount Hood; Holland won the ensuing competition. Next came the World Cup tour and his Olympic dreams.


Holland's family members and friends -- 18 people in all -- are making the trip to Turin. But his Reno-Tahoe friends will be there, too. That's because he lives in Olympic Village, Calif., now, where 46 years ago a Winter Olympics that had never heard of snowboarding was held. The Winter Games have changed, and Nate Holland -- tucking for the airborne sections, carving the corners, attacking all-out -- plans to change with them all the way to an Olympic podium.





The Olympic snowboardcross competition will be televised during prime time on Thursday, Feb. 16, on NBC.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Odds And Ends
  • Odds And Ends

    Idaho lawmakers are pulled in lots of directions; plus, SPD weighs a "culture audit"
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Four Days A Week
  • Four Days A Week

    Idaho schools that dropped one day a week from their schedule are saving a little money — but at what cost?
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • A County Ombudsman?
  • A County Ombudsman?

    Weighing the costs and benefits of oversight at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
2015 NCAA Division 1 Woman's Regionals

2015 NCAA Division 1 Woman's Regionals @ Spokane Arena

Mon., March 30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Why Idaho kids don't go to college

    And what that means for the Gem State
    • Mar 4, 2015
  • New Blood

    Candidates are launching bids for Spokane City Council and could bring big changes to city government
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


Comment


marijuana


Publisher's Note


long reads


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation