They met at an indoor snowboarding hall in the Netherlands, so it wasn’t as if Vic Wild was shopping for Russian brides in a master plan to win a gold medal. Alyona Zavarzina competed in the same sport. They fell in love, married four years ago and began building a life together in Russia.
Vic Wild was a nameless, faceless snowboarder from White Salmon, Wash., who competed in alpine slalom events that Americans pushed to the side. It’s one of four disciplines the United States didn’t enter in 2014 Olympics. Without little money and less support, he walked away from the sport in 2010.
“I wasn’t going to continue banging my head against the wall,” Wild told the Wall Street Journal before the Winter Games in Sochi.
Nearly all the money the U.S. Olympic Committee pours into snowboarding is for freestyle events, an investment that has paid off. Eleven of the first 21 medals for the United States were in snowboard and freestyle skiing. Shaun White and Lindsey Jacobellis became household names.
Vic Wild did not.
In 2011, after becoming a Russian citizen and seeing the commitment the country made to the sport with Zavarzina, he stumbled upon an opportunity. He could compete for Russia in alpine snowboarding events. He joined its federation, which helped him with the costs of living, training and competing.
On Wednesday, he won a gold medal in parallel giant slalom. His wife won a bronze medal for the women in the same event.
“I’m not like some dude that lives in the United States and decides, ‘Oh man, it’ll be easy for me to go to the Olympics and go to some country that doesn’t do anything,’” Wild told the Los Angeles Times. “Some country that doesn’t have any athletes. I went the hard way.”
Wild told reporters that he would have been watching the Olympics if he remained with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He figured he would be working an ordinary job and living an ordinary lifestyle. He was looking to do something more before everything snapped into place.
“For us to both have success on the same day, it’s truly incredible,” he said. “I don’t know how this happened. It’s too good to be true. I might wake up soon. It feels like a dream.”
Show some hustle
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was quick to defend Robinson Cano, but he couldn’t have been too surprised when Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long ripped the star second baseman for loafing to first when grounding out.
Talk about stating the obvious. What’s next, that Richie Incognito hasn’t fared well on Twitter?
The Yanks defended Cano for his lackadaisical approach in the field, which they claimed was him making the game look easy. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Long praised Cano for overcoming numerous flaws early in his career. At the same time, Cano frustrated the Yanks with his lack of hustle.
“If somebody told me I was a dog, I’d have to fix that,” Long told the New York Daily News. “When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.”
McClendon fired back with a dig about Long’s book, “Cage Rat: Lessons from a Life in Baseball by the Yankees Hitting Coach”.
“I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees,” McClendon told ESPN.com. “I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”
Yanks first baseman Mark Teixiera, for what it’s worth, agreed with Long.
“Running hard down the line, that doesn’t cost anything,” Teixiera said on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN. “That’s just, it’s easy to do, and I think Kevin’s point was, why are you letting people criticize you when all you have to do is hustle a little bit?”
Dwight Howard’s return to Los Angeles was the biggest non-story in recent months to become a national story. Howard was hailed as a savior when he arrived last season, but he accomplished almost nothing and was gone after one year.
Howard averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, the third-lowest production in both categories in his career. The Lakers were fortunate to make the playoffs and were gone after one round. Howard called the season “a nightmare,” so it wasn’t as if the Lakers and their fans were heartbroken when he signed with the Rockets.
“Ultimately, I think Dwight wasn’t comfortable here and didn’t want to be here,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said on ESPN radio in Los Angeles. “I think if he didn’t want to be here, there’s no point for anyone in him being here. So, we wish him the best and move on.”
End of story.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino: “I think anyone who reads social media that’s in sports is not all there.”
70, 9: Shots on goal, and shots against, for the U.S. women’s team in its 6-1 semifinal victory over Sweden in the Olympics. The Americans outshot their opponents, 193-65, en route to the gold medal game.
0: Medals won by three-time Olympian Lolo Jones, who failed to reach the podium twice while competing in hurdles in the Summer Games and finished 11th in bobsled in the Winter Games in Sochi.
12.5: Combined salaries, in millions, this season for Henrik Zetterberg and John Tavares, both of whom were sidelined with injuries suffered in the Olympics.
• Gracie Gold’s chances of winning gold in women’s figure skating appeared slim after she finished fourth in the short program, but she shouldn’t be counted out just yet. Sarah Hughes stormed back from fourth during the free skate in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games en route to winning her gold medal.
• The Yankees are certain to retire No. 2 after Derek Jeter hangs up his cleats, which will leave them with only one single-digit number in circulation. The other is No. 6, which also could be retired. It was the number worn by former manager Joe Torre.
• Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of American brothers Phil and Steve Mahre winning gold and silver medals, respectively, in Sarajevo. It was the first time brothers won gold and silver in the same event, an accomplishment that’s often overlooked in American sports history.