Leader of the pack
Lindsey Jacobellis is the dominant force in women's boardercross, winning seven Winter X Games gold medals and standing on top in 23 of the 33 FIS World Cup races she's podiumed in so far. The nearly unbeatable snowboarder from Vermont will be going for the first five-peat by a woman in WX history when she enters the Snowboarder X starting gate in 2012.
Despite the fact that Jacobellis is the winningest boardercross athlete, male or female, in the history of the sport -- a title she's held since 2009 -- her career has been marred by two high profile losses. First, in the 2006 Olympics when she pulled method grab by the finish line, which caused her to crash, costing her the gold medal in the process. (She took silver, after having led the race by a significant margin up until the fall.) Then again in the 2010 Olympics she accidently went through a gate, disqualifying herself. It is a testament to the strength of her character that she has been able to remain unaffected by these bobbles and not only continues to dominate in almost every race she enters, but shows no signs of losing her edge any time soon.
Outside of Jacobellis' competitive history, not a lot is known. We tracked the potential five-peater down while she was getting ready to head out on the pre-Winter X Games World Cup circuit to find out a little more about what she gets into when she's not winning races.
ESPN: So we know a lot about your competition feats, but what we don't know is what you do when you're not winning boardercross races?
Lindsey Jacobellis: I like playing tennis and beach volleyball. I'm an outside person. I surf a lot in the summertime. I'm an intermediate surfer. I like to keep it mellow. I surf the beginning and the end of swells. I graduated down to a 5-foot-4 surf board and am trying new stuff with it. I don't like going into really heavy waves because I get into enough sketchy situations with snowboarding.
Where do you live?
I share an apartment with a friend on a nine-month lease in Encinitas, California, but I'm kind of just a gypsy in the winter. I don't really have a home base. It can stress me out and frustrate me sometimes, but it just comes with the territory.
Do you ever get to go snowboarding just for fun?
I would love to be riding powder right now, but it's not an option because there isn't any. I was skiing yesterday. I really like skiing. I grew up skiing and just started back up a couple years ago. I recently got my first official skis from Kessler. First time having a pair since I was 11.
World Cup finals are at the end of March. After that I might go up to Alaska and start riding backcountry with my [fellow boarder cross racer] friend Callen -- she is going to break me into that part of the sport. Last year it didn't work out. It's something that I'm forcing to happen this year. I look forward to riding in a helicopter and getting dropped off on big mountains.
You ever hit the park and pipe?
I actually have a medal from Slopestyle at Winter X Games in 2003. I used to do all three snowboard disciplines: Superpipe, Slopestyle, and Snowboarder X. It was only when they started making X Games live that I stopped doing all three events because I couldn't be everywhere at the same time.
I jump back into the pipe when I get a chance and hit little jumps at wherever I'm hanging. I like to keep myself comfortable in the air.
Why did you decide to concentrate on boardercross instead of pipe or slope?
It seemed liked the right route to go at the time. I felt there could be a longer lifespan in Boarder X. I really like it. I'm constantly trying to progress the sport of boarder cross and raise the level for women. When I'm done competing, I want to find a new way to build a feeder event series to get more youth involved in the sport.
The reason we're having a gap between the regional events and the World Cup is because there's no feeder program. I want to get a good sponsor to endorse a race series, which would enable a course to stay up on a mountain for an entire season. This would give kids a place to train.
How do you train for boardercross? It's not like mountains have race courses set up for people to practice on.
The only way to practice is to go to events. Winter X Games always has an intense and fast course. We only get to experience that twice a year, in Telluride and Aspen. I've been trying to set something up with Stratton to make a permanent course. Safety issues come into play. That's not what they're catering to and making money from, but I'm trying to find a way to make it work.
Does it bother you that park and pipe snowboarding get so much more attention than boardercross?
It is a little frustrating, but I recently saw an NBC pole for viewing and boardercross scored higher than halfpipe. It makes sense because it's such an easy, action-packed thing to watch and figure out. If you gave kids more options to do boardercross through a feeder program then we could see a lot more of it in the future.
You spend a lot of time racing FIS courses. Do you have any opinions about the way they run things for snowboarding?
FIS is an organization that's been around for a long time and sometimes it takes a long time to get thing done, but in the past we have collaborated with other athletes and coaches to make changes that are necessary for our sport.
One successful change we made with our sport was how tight our clothing can be in boarder cross, keeping a baggy, freestyle look, which is more attractive to the spectators' eyes.
How many races do you typically go to in a year?
On average I race in anywhere between three to five events before the Winter X Games. There are six to 10 World Cups races each year depending on sponsors.
So you've already been racing this season. How's it going so far?
I won the season's first race in Telluride. I'm very happy with how the season has started. I usually need a race to go badly than I get angry and motivated and things fall in place. My mental and physical training is improving.