American-born snowboarder Vic Wild won gold in the men’s parallel giant slalom on Wednesday, and he did it for Russia.
Without the income to continue his Olympic dream in the U.S., Wild switched national allegiances three years ago, marrying a Russian woman to secure citizenship in time for the 2014 Olympics.
While the United States is the most dominant snowboarding nation in the world when it comes to halfpipe and slopestyle, funding for alpine snowboarding — where riders race down a traditional mountain like slalom skiers — is nearly nonexistent.
The United States Snowboard and Freeski Association doesn’t fund the sport like it does halfpipe, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s not in the X Games, meaning domestic corporate sponsorship dollars aren’t there either. Justin Reiter, the lone American male alpine snowboarder in Sochi, worked as a pizza cook to finance his Olympic dream.
“Those guys from Austria, Switzerland, or Russia have everything: doctors, physios, techs,” Reiter told Men’s Journal, “So there is an element of me being like David taking on Goliath.”
So in 2011, Wild decided to take his talents to a country that had money to spend on the sport and was looking for medal contenders at the 2014 Olympics.
“I had no money. I wasn’t going to continue banging my head against the wall,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
“People didn’t really want to help me there. The USA wasn’t into it, man,” a frustrated Wild told NBCOlympics in January.
Wild, who was born in Washington, was dating Russian alpine snowboarder Alyona Zavarzina when he first thought about making the switch to Russia.
According to NBC, Russia couldn’t grant him citizenship on his talent alone. He needed to have won an Olympic or World Cup medal, Russian Ministry of Sport rules stipulated.
Luckily there was a work-around. He and Alyona got married in Novosibirsk in the summer of 2011. He got Russian citizenship in 2012, and adopted the Russian name Victor Ivan.
Now he’s a gold medalist for his adopted country, and alpine snowboarding remains the gaping hole in America’s snowboarding dominance.
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