Is this the year Lindsey Jacobellis returns to the Olympic podium?
It’s been a long and sometimes challenging road for Jacobellis — one of four Americans competing in the women’s snowboard cross early Wednesday morning. Making her fifth Olympic appearance in Beijing, the 36-year-old seems poised to win an Olympic medal for the first time since 2006.
Jacobellis made her Olympic debut at 21 in Turin -- the same year cross was first contested at the Olympics. She famously led comfortably heading into the final turn before attempting a trick and falling to silver. She struggled to rebound in the next two Games, facing collisions and failing to advance to the medal round.
That didn’t stop her from a fourth try in PyeongChang, where she narrowly missed out on a medal, coming in fourth to bronze medalist Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic by .003 seconds.
Jacobellis is back, ready to compete on the slopes, but she’ll have some stiff competition, including from some of her teammates.
Reigning gold medalist Michela Moioli remains the favorite to defend her title. The Italian snowboarder was ranked No. 1 overall in 2019-2020 and No. 2 overall in 2020-2021 by World Cup Standings.
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The athlete who unseated her as the No. 1 overall cross snowboarder last season? Samkova -- the same one that kept Jacobellis off the podium in Pyeongchang.
Samkova is a two-time Olympic medalist, having previously won gold in Sochi. She’s remained dominant since the last Games and was set to be a strong contender in Beijing when she suffered a season-ending injury in December, requiring emergency surgery on both ankles.
Great Britain’s Charlotte Bankes, Chloe Trespeuch of France and Belle Brockhoff of Australia are all expected to contend for a medal.
Bankes, who moved to France at age 4, represented France at the last two Olympics before switching to compete with Great Britain following the PyeongChang Games.
Jacobellis’s three teammates in the event -- Faye Gulini, Stacy Gaskill and Meghan Tierney -- all have an outside chance of sneaking on to the podium. Gulini rose as high as third in the World Cup standings last season but has since fallen to 11th. She and Tierney – who is ranked 22nd – both made it to the quarterfinals but did not advance at the 2018 Games.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Stacy Gaskill is looking to assume Jacobellis’s position as the queen of cross for Team USA. Gaskill is currently ranked sixth in World Cup standings, one spot behind Jacobellis.
Seeding rounds are expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday night. All 32 athletes advance past the seeding round to qualifications, which begin Wednesday morning at 1:30 a.m. ET. The final medals will be contested beginning at 2:45 a.m. ET. All rounds will be available to stream on NBC and Peacock.