Born in the USA, Wild had no easy ride in Russia

Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:08am EST
 
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By Philip O'Connor

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Born in the USA but a gold medal winner for Russia, snowboarder Vic Wild made a switch that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. Without it, he may never have become an Olympic champion.

Minutes after his Russian wife Alena Zavarzina won bronze in the women's snowboard event on Wednesday, Wild crossed the finish line first in the men's parallel giant slalom to the roars of a jubilant Russian crowd.

A cut in funding for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) slalom program led the 27-year-old to switch to Russia in 2011 after he married Zavarzina. But it has been by no means an easy ride to Olympic glory.

"I went the hard way," Wild told a news conference. "Russia has lots of good riders. Russia has the opportunity for me to win races, not for me to go to the Olympics.

"Russia is the country that has given me the opportunity to win the medal. If I was still riding for the USA I'd be back home, maybe with some mediocre job, doing something mediocre. That's not who I wanted to be."

While Zavarzina was delighted with her bronze medal, she was more eager to talk about her husband's success.

"I'm very happy that Vic got gold," she said, sitting beside him on the podium. "This is what he worked for. He's so far from his hometown, he did an amazing job.

"He had to switch countries, switch nationality, accept something that some people would never accept.   Continued...

 
Russia's Vic Wild competes during the men's snowboard parallel giant slalom qualifying heats at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake