Seth Wescott takes gold in snowboardcross

As a freestyle snowboarder, Seth Wescott was once dropped off by helicopter on a peak in Alaska and managed to beat a roaring avalanche to the bottom of the mountain.

So it seems only logical he would be able to outrace the field to claim the first snowboardcross gold medal in the Winter Olympics on Thursday.

"This allows me to achieve a goal that I've been pretty single-mindedly focused on for the last several years," Wescott said. "It's the end of a long road, and it fulfills a dream."

The victory by Wescott, 29, from Durham, N.C., makes the United States 3-for-3 in gold medals in snowboarding events in Italy, and it could lift the growing sport's popularity to a higher level based on the side-by-side racing and the absence of a clock or style points.

Radoslav Nidek of Slovakia took the silver, the first medal of any kind for his country, and Paul-Henri Delerue captured the bronze.

The final run was filled with drama as Wescott, the defending overall World Cup champion, had to come from way behind to edge the dark horse Zidek by barely half a board length at the finish.

Perhaps even more important was the rousing atmosphere created by a backdrop of morning snow, afternoon sun and a sport that is part snowboard, part roller derby and part NASCAR race.

Snowboardcross is the only race in the Winter Olympics that is not timed once the field is reduced to the final 32 competitors. From that point on, there are four rounds of elimination heats, reports the AP.

I.L.

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