|Putin Lauds Russia's American-Born Gold Medalist|
|Liz Fields||Feb 22, 2014, 10:47 AM|
Russia's Vic Wild celebrates his gold medal in the men's snowboard parallel slalom final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Credit: Andy Wong/AP Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated American-born snowboarder Vic Wild for boosting the host country's medal count for a second time in Sochi after winning gold in the parallel slalom Saturday.
Putin was quick to send his praises to Wild after he beat Slovenia's Zan Kosir by .11 of a second, saying the snowboarder "withstood a fierce battle and formidable rivals."
"With your win, you have proved that the sports fate smiles on the most talented, driven and strongest in spirit," Putin said in a statement posted on the Kremlin's website on Saturday.
"It has taken a lot of hard work, man. When everyone else in the summer is taking vacation, I am working hard," Wild said after his latest win. He also won the men's parallel giant slalom earlier in the week.
Wild, who was born in Washington state, said that he didn't have the support from the United States Olympic Committee or the United States Snowboarding Association to pursue his Olympic dreams at home. So he went abroad.
The 27-year-old is also married to a Russian Olympic snowboarder, Alena Zavarzina, who won bronze in the parallel giant slalom just minutes before her husband.
"I didn't have the support I needed. The USOC and the USSA do a great job but not everyone can be happy. I don't hold a grudge. I am here now doing what I want to do and it's all good," Wild said.
Wild told ESPN he joined the Russian snowboarding team because the country invests in Alpine snowboarding, unlike the U.S. team, which focuses its funding on halfpipe and snowboard cross.
"I want to thank Russia for giving me the opportunity to win a gold medal," Wild said after his first triumph, telling reporters that though he now lives in Moscow he has not learned to speak Russian. "My teammates helped me so much. I don't think many of them like me, but I really appreciate it."
The AP contributed to this report.