KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — They’re wild about snowboarding in Russia now.
All it took was a fuzzy faced, fired-up native from the western U.S. to do it.
American by birth, Russian by marriage and by choice, Vic Wild completed a historic sweep of the Olympic snowboard parallel slalom events to give his adopted country a boost in the race to top the medals table in Sochi.
Wild edged Zan Kosir of Slovenia by 0.11 seconds in Saturday’s parallel slalom final to win his second gold medal of the games.
The win capped a remarkable four days for the guy from White Salmon, Wash., who is married to Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina and earlier won gold in parallel giant slalom.
The 27-year-old narrowly escaped the semifinals in Saturday’s parallel slalom. He lost an edge in the first heat and trailed Benjamin Karl of Austria by 1.12 seconds heading into the deciding race. Wild somehow made up the difference during a frantic sprint down Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, stretching his hand across the finish line first to win by inches.
The final wasn’t drama-free either. Wild took a .12 lead over Kosir — who earned bronze in the PGS — after the first run and held the Slovenian snowboarder at bay in the final. Wild thrust his arms into the air in triumph while the decidedly pro-Russian crowd chanted “Vitya.”
“This right here, two golds, this puts him in a whole different stratosphere,” said Wild’s brother, Mike. “He’ll go down in history. This is what it’s all about.”
And it further validated Wild’s decision to marry Zavarzina in 2011. The two friends became romantically involved in 2009 before being wed nearly three years ago. Wild saw it as a chance to live with his best friend and join a lightly regarded Russian snowboarding team looking to make splash in Sochi.
Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of funding from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, Wild has blossomed after trading the Stars & Stripes for a different kind of red, white and blue. He placed third at the world championships last year and was easily the best snowboarder in his sport’s answer to Alpine skiing.
The victories are also worth about $250,000 to Wild and his wife, who took bronze in the PGS on Wednesday. Zavarzina didn’t make it out of first round of elimination on Saturday, but it hardly mattered. Their windfall at the Extreme Park means maybe they can move out of the 300-square foot apartment they share in Moscow.
Julia Dujmovits of Austria won gold in the women’s race. Anke Karstens of Germany won silver with teammate Amelie Kober taking bronze in the debut for a sport desperately trying to make inroads on the thriving popularity of halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarding.