Women's Moto X Racing competitor Meghan Rutledge blew a comfortable lead Saturday night after pumping her fist in a premature victory celebration and crashing on the last turn of the 12th and final lap.
"She made that mistake and I was able to capitalize on it," said Vicki Golden, who seized on the moment to blast ahead to her third consecutive gold medal in the event. "It sucks to win that way, but I'll take it."
In action sports, the premature victory celebration gone awry will forever be known as "The Jacobellis," in dubious tribute to snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis and the showboating blunder that cost her a boardercross gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
"I was out there leading. I'm really young. I've never led an X Games before. I celebrated a bit too early and made a mistake, unfortunately, which gave Vicki Golden an opening to take first again," said Rutledge, 18, half crying and half laughing after collecting herself and finishing in second place. "If I had stayed on the bike, there was no way I could have lost. I had one straight to go. But, you know, mistakes happen."
Golden, the clear favorite in the event, got off to a bad start early on, then slowly but surely fought her way to a second-place position, using aggressive passing experience gleaned from competing against the men on the AMA Arenecross circuit.
"It was one of the most hectic races from start to finish," Golden, 21, said. "They said in the riders' meeting we couldn't be super aggressive, and I didn't want to be penalized for making aggressive passes, so I tried to take as much time as I could. But I saw the halfway mark and said, 'Screw it, it's go time,' and started making passes."
After the race, Golden was confused about how she had won.
"I came around the corner before the ramp in the final lap and heard the crowd scream, then went over the ramp and saw she was on the ground and that was all I knew," she said. "It was a last-minute, stressful race and I'm just happy and blessed to be out on top."
Rutledge could barely bring herself to make eye contact with Golden on the podium or in interviews after the race, but Golden tried to be gracious.
"She's young and she's still learning; we're all still learning," Golden said. "It all comes in time."