ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - American-born Vic Wild won his second gold medal for Russia at the Sochi Games on Saturday when he stormed to victory in the men’s parallel slalom final to become the first snowboarder to win two titles at a single Olympics.
Austrian Julia Dujmovits had moments earlier won the first women’s title in the event’s Olympic debut but it was Wild’s second triumph for his adopted country after his giant slalom gold on Wednesday that brought the crowd to a crescendo.
Wild had looked down and out in the semi-finals but staged a remarkable second-run comeback to reach the final, where he edged giant slalom bronze medalist Zan Kosir in a thriller.
“Beyond believable,” said the 27-year-old Wild.
“When I came to the Olympics and showed up, I had already won. To win the other day was the greatest feeling of my life. I can’t believe it.”
Twice world champion Benjamin Karl lost to Wild in the semi-final but took bronze in the “small” final to give Austria their first two Extreme Park medals on the last day of action at the Caucasus Mountains venue.
The silver and bronze behind Dujmovits went to German pair Anke Karstens and Amelie Kober, the latter winning the “small” final despite riding in a splint after breaking her elbow on Wednesday.
The Extreme Park program ended as it had started with a big crowd watching qualification rounds, bathed in bright sunshine under picture-perfect blue skies.
Both world champions, Slovenia’s Rok Marguc and Ekaterina Tudegesheva of Russia, went out in the last 16, as did the women’s parallel giant slalom champion in Sochi, Swiss Patrizia Kummer.
Also making an early exit was Russian Alena Zavarzina, who prompted Wild’s nationality switch when they wed in 2011 and who won bronze on the giant slalom course on Wednesday.
It looked like being a double disappointment in the slalom when Wild made a mistake five gates from the end of the opening run of the semi-final to fall more than a second behind Karl, whom he had never beaten before.
The slalom is sometimes short of drama because of the need to give the riders a run on both sides of the course but the second run of this race produced plenty of excitement.
Wild burst out of the gate and was soon into the rhythm that had made him the standout performer this week, closing the gap on Karl before leaning his body forward to slide across the line and win by 0.04 of a second.
“I knew it was a big advantage but he was riding with the self-confidence of an Olympic champion,” Karl said of his rival.
“If you already have the gold medal in your jacket, you can ride like hell.”
The final could have been an anti-climax but Kosir charged back after making a slight mistake halfway through the first run to keep matters tight.
Wild was not going to let the second gold slip out of his hands, though, and carved his way down the 325 meter slope and around the 28 gates to claim victory by just over a tenth of a second, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on snowboard,” said Wild.
“I wanted to make everybody happy, more so for the people in the stands than myself. My equipment was close to perfect and I rode the best slalom I’ve ever ridden in my life.”
Editing by Mitch Phillips