Sunday, February 8, 1998
Rebagliati wins Canada's first gold medal
With his father in attendance, Rebagliati came from eighth place after the first run to stunningly win the giant-slalom snowboarding event, the first Olympic medal for this sport.
"It hasn't sunk in yet, but this has been building up for 10 years," Rebagliati said. "Finally, the moment came. I knew what I had to do here. I'd rather have no time than a slow time. I had to go for it."
His teammates were ecstatic at the bottom of Mount Yakebitai.
"You are an animal," screamed Darren Chalmers during the hugfest of father, son, and the rest of Canada's snowboarding team.
"This is so killer, this is so killer."
For Rebagliati, a 26-year-old who lives in Whistler, this stunning moment is a compilation of months of anxiety leading up to the gold-medal race. His father had booked his ticket for Japan back in August, even before Rebagliati was named to the Canadian team. That put pressure on him. Then, after he was named, he began to think of the magnitude of the assignment, the pressure of the Olympics.
"I'm so happy for the moment," Rebagliati said between hugs. "This is like the weight of the world has been taken off my shoulders. I was having anxiety attacks all summer long. Thinking about this. About drug-testing. About all the things involved with the Olympics. I had a hard time sleeping last night."
For a while, it looked as though the race wouldn't come off at all. Only five skiers had gone in the second run when the fog began to roll in and the winds and snow worsened. The event was halted for about 20 minutes and looked as though it would be cancelled.
In his first run, Rebagliati placed eighth in 59.87 seconds, but he was second in the second run in 1:04:09. Thomas Prugger of Italy won the silver medal, just 2/100ths of a second behind. Ueli Kestenholz of Switzerland won the bronze.
Afterward, as he was crowded along the fence near his father, near some friends, Rebagliati continuously threw his arms in the air and whooped.
The depth of the Canadian squad -- the new Crazy Canucks -- was in evidence here.
Favorite Mark Fawcett fell on his run, even though he was leading at the time. Jasey-Jay Anderson of Montreal led after the first run before having difficulty in his second run and finishing 16th.
Rebagliati was happy to accomplish this in Japan. Back in 1993, after competing here, a fan club began in his name. There are still members, even though he is not exactly well-known in Canada.
"The people in the snowboarding world sure know who he is," said Rebagliati's father, Mark. "Within his sport, he is known throughout the world. It's just the general public is just getting to know who he is. I suppose they'll know who he is now."
The truth on Rebagliati: He grew up wanting to be a surfer. "But I grew up in the wrong climate."
Instead, he started as a ski racer, then switched to snowboarding.
"Back then, I think of all those people laughing at me. What's this guy doing? What are you doing that for? This has been a long time coming."
And as he spoke, Rebagliati admitted he still wasn't fully appreciating the golden moment.
"I'm having an out-of-body experience," he said. "But it's like I'm watching it. It's going to take a while to fully appreciate what this means."
ResultsYAMANOUCHI, Japan (AP) -- Final results Sunday of the men's giant slalom snowboarding event at the Winter Olympics. (First run time-finish and second run time-finish in parentheses):
1, Ross Rebagliati, Canada, (59.87, 8; 1:04.09, 2), 2:03.96.
2, Thomas Prugger, Italy, (59.38, 2; 1:04.60, 5), 2:03.98.
3, Ueli Kestenholz, Switzerland, (1:00.20, 10; 1:03.88, 1), 2:04.08.
4, Dieter Krassnig, Austria, (1:00.11, 9; 1:04.22, 3), 2:04.33.
5, Matthieu Bozzetto, France, (59.83, 7; 1:04.74, 6), 2:04.57.
6, Christopher Klug, Aspen, Colo., (59.38, 2; 1:05.87, 10), 2:05.25.
7, Martin Freinademetz, Austria, (59.58, 4; 1:05.76, 9), 2:05.34.
8, Maxence Idesheim, France, (1:00.75, 12; 1:04.77, 7), 2:05.52.
9, Dieter Happ, Austria, (1:02.65, 16; 1:04.40, 4), 2:07.05.
10, Thedo Remmelink, Netherlands, (1:02.01, 15; 1:05.24, 8), 2:07.25.
11, Willi Trakofler, Italy, (1:01.42, 13; 1:05.88, 11), 2:07.30.
12, Christophe Segura, France, (59.59, 5; 1:09.27, 18), 2:08.86.
13, Elmar Messner, Italy, (1:01.42, 13; 1:07.99, 15), 2:09.41.
14, Dieter Moherndl, Germany, (1:03.03, 19; 1:07.00, 12), 2:10.03.
15, Mike Kildevaeld, Denmark, (1:02.75, 17; 1:07.67, 13), 2:10.42.