KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Eva Samkova slapped a camera atop her helmet before the women’s Olympic snowboardcross finals on Sunday, hoping to give TV viewers a better grasp of her sport’s unique mix of speed and chaos.
Samkova provided the speed.
It’s the chaos that was missing — at least in front of her.
Riding a board that appeared propelled by booster rockets, the 20-year-old from the Czech Republic sprinted to Olympic gold with three wire-to-wire victories. They probably looked pretty boring from her helmet camera’s point of view, what with nothing in front of her but a softening course and a raucous crowd that roared in appreciation of her dominance.
Her body rock steady in an event that again claimed perennial gold medal contender Lindsey Jacobellis among its victims, Samkova credited the wax techs that turned her board into a 5-foot-long lightning bolt and a form that didn’t falter as the madness piled up behind her.
“It’s just physics, that’s all,” Samkova said with a laugh.
And Groundhog Day for Jacobellis.
The eight-time X Games winner gave away gold in Turin eight years ago when a botched grab near the end of the finals cost her the top spot on the podium. The greatest racer in the sport’s history failed to make it out of the semifinals in Vancouver and her quest to fill the one hole left on her peerless resume ended in Sochi’s semifinals.
Well ahead of the other five riders at a slushy Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the 28-year-old from Park City, Utah, lost her balance coming out of a jump and washed out in one of the final turns. She recovered to win the consolation final, though it served as little solace.
“There are worse things in life than not winning. A lot worse,” Jacobellis said. “And, of course, it’s very unfortunate this didn’t work out for me. I trained very hard for this moment. It doesn’t come together for who knows what reason.”
Samkova’s win was the first podium finish in the Olympics by a Czech snowboarder. Dominique Maltais became the first multiple-medal winner in women’s snowboardcross when she finished a distant second. Chloe Trespeuch of France topped Faye Gulini of the U.S. for bronze on a day that featured both the beauty and the danger of snowboarding’s version of NASCAR.