KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – With yet another Olympic disaster, Lindsey Jacobellis very may well be snowboarding's Tony Romo.
"People are so ready to see her fail. That's terrible, you know?" said snowboardcross teammate Faye Gulini. "That's not how things should be."
Jacobellis arrived here in Sochi carrying the weight of two previous Olympic disappointments. She won a silver in 2006 in Turin, but only after showboating away a gold medal. Four years ago in Vancouver, she crashed into a gate in the semifinals and was disqualified.
She was a medal favorite here, and winning a gold – or shoot, even another silver – could have erased those negative Olympic memories.
Instead, Jacobellis' Olympics ended in another heartbreak.
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She was leading her semifinal heat Sunday afternoon when she overshot a landing on the second roller section of the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. She slipped, landed on her backside and spun around, and could only watch as the other riders raced past her.
"Most people tune into this race every four years. They probably think, 'Oh she's been training the course for days and she doesn't have it by now. What's wrong?'" Jacobellis said. "Spin it every negative way till the cows come home. They don't understand how the course changes throughout the day, how you're tired throughout the day and what else is going on."
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It was a fluke, Jacobellis said, an error she hadn't made in training or in two earlier runs Sunday, when she posted the second-fastest time in the time trial that determined seeding, or cruised to an easy win in her quarterfinal heat. The crash wasn't the result of any contact, or the fault of any other rider. This was her mistake alone.
"There's a lot you can't control, but unfortunately what I could control today, was what didn't work," Jacobellis said. "That's the unfortunate part, because so much is up to chance, and you can't control people coming into you and things like that, but today, it just wasn't my day to put everything together."
A legacy of X Games domination – she's won eight golds there, including one last month – combined with a trio of world championships count little outside of the intimate world of snowboarding. The Olympics mean mainstream validation, something that may now never come for Jacobellis.
"I don't know what people think, but they might think that she chokes, you know?" teammate Nate Holland told USA TODAY Sports. "But if you look at her career, and her consistency, she doesn't choke. These are just things that happen on the course, it's just unfortunate that she's had a bad run at the Olympics."
Jacobellis will be 32 at the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and certainly isn't ruling out trying to make another run at the elusive gold. But it's too far away, especially while competing in a sport that is so dangerous, to look much beyond the heartbreak that happened here in her third Olympics.
It would be understandable to her teammates if she didn't want to try it again. Gulini, who finished fourth Sunday behind gold medalist Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic, Canadian Dominique Maltais and France's Chloe Trespeuch. Gulini said she saw Jacobellis struggle with the pressure that came with being both a medal favorite and the burden of her Olympic history.
"It breaks my heart because I think it takes the fun out of it for her. Just for this event. She loves the sport. She's a phenomenal snowboarder. But it's in her head. You know?" Gulini said. "With that much pressure on you -- I've never had that kind of pressure on me, but I know it just breaks her as an athlete and makes it hard for her. She said that her head was in it, so maybe it was just kind of a fluke mistake, and it's a bummer if that's the case, because I think she deserves more."
Jacobellis didn't cry as she faced reporters after Sunday's race, and she said she's more emotionally capable now of handling heartbreak than she was as an Olympic rookie in Torino, when she fell on the final jump after attempting a flashy grab and wound up with the silver medal. At 28, she has a different perspective on the Games.
"There are worse things in life than not winning. A lot worse. Of course it's very unfortunate that this didn't work out for me, and I trained really hard for this moment, and it didn't come together, for who knows what reason. I mean, you take it in stride," Jacobellis said. "A lot of people can say what they want, there are many opinions out there that don't know how to do the sport, and that's fine. It's not really going to affect how I view myself and how I view my past resume."