News

Born in the USA, Wild had no easy ride in Russia

Born in the USA, Wild had no easy ride in Russia

BORN IN THE USA: Russia's Vic Wild competes during the men's snowboard parallel giant slalom qualifying heats at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor Feb. 19. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake

By Philip O’Connor

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) – Born in the USA but a gold medal winner for Russia, snowboarder Vic Wild made a switch that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. Without it, he may never have become an Olympic champion.

Minutes after his Russian wife Alena Zavarzina won bronze in the women’s snowboard event on Wednesday, Wild crossed the finish line first in the men’s parallel giant slalom to the roars of a jubilant Russian crowd.

A cut in funding for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) slalom program led the 27-year-old to switch to Russia in 2011 after he married Zavarzina. But it has been by no means an easy ride to Olympic glory.

“I went the hard way,” Wild told a news conference. “Russia has lots of good riders. Russia has the opportunity for me to win races, not for me to go to the Olympics.

OLYMPIC NEWS: Sochi 2014

“Russia is the country that has given me the opportunity to win the medal. If I was still riding for the USA I’d be back home, maybe with some mediocre job, doing something mediocre. That’s not who I wanted to be.”

While Zavarzina was delighted with her bronze medal, she was more eager to talk about her husband’s success.

“I’m very happy that Vic got gold,” she said, sitting beside him on the podium. “This is what he worked for. He’s so far from his hometown, he did an amazing job.

“He had to switch countries, switch nationality, accept something that some people would never accept.

“He has to deal with the Russian mentality, with stuff he’s not used to, working with people who don’t understand him most of the time.”

SERIOUS STUFF

Wild told reporters his path was not for everyone. “It’s a serious thing to do. If someone’s going to switch their nation, they’d better be very sure of themselves,” he told reporters.

“All my friends, they understand,” he said of his former U.S. team mates. “They’ve seen me at my lows, they know that it was very important for me – my entire life – that I make this switch and that I give it one more shot.

“If I hadn’t done this, I think I’d always be wondering, ‘what if?’ You don’t want to live your life like that,” he said.

Wild and 24-year-old Zavarazina met in 2009 and were married in July 2011.

“It was the full-on Siberian wedding. We did it in Novosibirsk, it was crazy,” he said, admitting that he did not understand much of what was said during the ceremony.

“It was probably more stressful than today. It was the most stressful day of my life,” he said, smiling. “I was walking into one building, thinking to myself, ‘Dude, you are way too far from home to run!’”

Moving to Moscow has also been something of a culture shock for the young man from White Salmon, Washington, which has a population of just over 2,000.

“Moving to the big city was hard for me, for sure. The first couple of months I was quite depressed, but once I started learning how to enjoy Moscow, life’s actually been a lot better,” he said.

Wild indicated that some of his Russian team mates were not delighted by his arrival. “My team mates helped me so much,” he said wryly. “I don’t think many of them like me so much but I really appreciate it.”

Wild revealed that he plans to snowboard for another four years, and to learn his new language properly.

“I’m very focused on snowboard and training, and I haven’t put in the time I need to for really speaking. I can get around and do simple stuff, but I’m not a Russian speaker,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, edited by Robert Woodward)

Recent Headlines

in National, World

Israel warns of long Gaza war as Palestinian fighters cross border

Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dashes any hopes of a swift end to the three-week conflict as Palestinian fighters launched an audacious cross-border raid.

in Music

Glen Matlock denies new Sex Pistols reunion

John Lydon, right, and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols perform at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007.

Sex Pistols star Glen Matlock dashes fans' hopes of another reunion by insisting he hasn't had any contact with John Lydon in five years.

in Music

Aretha Franklin storms out of fast food joint

FILE - In this May 11, 2013 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during McDonald's Gospelfest 2013 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.Franklin won’t say what has caused her latest health problems, but says she’s had a “miraculous” recovery and is looking forward to performing soon.In a phone interview on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Franklin said that she recently had a cat scan and that it showed she was 85 percent improved. The 71-year-old has canceled several concerts and public appearances and blamed it on unspecified treatment.

Aretha Franklin stormed out a Johnny Rockets in Ontario, Canada last week after a nasty encounter with a rude employee.

in Sports

Only arguing remains in Sterling trail

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2010, file photo, Shelly Sterling sits with her husband, Donald Sterling, right, during the Los Angeles Clippers' NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. With a $2 billion sale of the Clippers hanging in the balance, a judge is set to determine Monday, June 30, 2014, if the terms of a family trust alone are enough to confirm Donald Sterling was properly removed as trustee and allow his estranged wife to sell the team without his consent.

Only final arguments and a ruling remain in the trial to determine whether Donald Sterling's estranged wife can sell the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.

in Music

The Beatles wanted to film ‘Lord of the Rings’

FILE- This is a 1967 handout image from Parlophone of The British group, The Beatles,. From left, are: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney; and George Harrison. The woman who as a child was the basis for the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is gravely ill. It was thought by many at the time that the psychedelic song from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band was a paean to LSD because of the initials in the title, but it was actually based on a drawing that John Lennon's young son Julian brought home from school. He told his father the drawing was of Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Lucy Vodden, now living in Surrey just outside of London _ drifted apart after schoolyard days, but they have gotten back in touch as Lennon has tried to help Vodden cope with Lupus, a life-threatening disease.

Peter Jackson reveals John Lennon could have played Gollum in a Stanley Kubrick directed LOTR adaptation.