Vic Wild wins gold for Russia

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Vic Wild and wife Alena Zavarzina have some new jewelry to go with their wedding rings: Olympic medals.

Wild rolled to victory in men's snowboarding parallel giant slalom on Wednesday, ripping past Nevin Galmarini in the second run of the finals to win gold for his adopted country of Russia. Zan Kosir of Slovenia took the bronze.

Wild's triumph came just minutes after his wife raced to bronze in the women's event.

"It's incredible to win it along with Alena,'' Wild said. "We're together all the time. If one of us has success and one of us doesn't, it's great -- but it's not that great.

"For both of us to have success on the same day, it's truly incredible. I don't know how this happened. It's too good to be true.''

After weeks of warm sunshine, a front that moved through Tuesday dumped a fresh batch of snow. Officials tried to protect the course, but it was a bit of a hard mess in which racers struggled with their lines as they rolled from gate to gate.

Wild had his moments, too. He nearly washed out twice during the first finals run, barely holding on after it appeared his board was ready to tip over. Moving from the blue course to the seemingly faster red course for the second run, he overcame the 0.54-second deficit he faced with relative ease.

He thrust his arms skyward in victory, leading to the unusual sight of an American born near the end of the Cold War being showered with adoration from a highly partisan home crowd of Russian fans.

"I'm so stoked to win it for Russia,'' he said. "Everybody thinks, 'But he's American, he's American.' It's not true. I'm not some dude in the U.S. who decides it'll be easy for me to make the Olympics in a country that doesn't do any snowboarding. ... I went the hard way.''

Zavarzina sprinted to embrace her husband after he captured gold while a large, heavily pro-Russian crowd waved flags and roared its appreciation. After the flower ceremony, Wild and his wife stood side by side holding a massive Russian flag and drinking in the moment.

It started five years ago while they were traveling in the same pack on the World Cup snowboard racing circuit. Vic, born and raised in White Salmon, Wash., competed for the United States. Alena, a native of Novosibirsk, rode for Russia.

"When I first met her, I knew something was a little different, so I was very careful with how our relationship went," Wild said. "Very, very, very careful."

Love bloomed. Zavarzina, the 2011 world champion, doesn't enjoy sharing every little detail. "I'll tell them when I'm old, in my memoir," she said.

Meanwhile, parallel giant slalom -- essentially Alpine racing on a snowboard -- was going nowhere in America, even after its greatest moment in that country, the stirring bronze-medal victory of liver transplant survivor Chris Klug at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Financial support dwindled. Wild saw where things were headed and dreamed about how great it would be to ride for Russia.

Neither Wild, 27, nor Alena, 24, considered themselves the marrying types. But that was the quickest way for Wild to gain citizenship and a chance to compete for a country that puts more money than America into this more Europe-centric version of snowboarding.

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