Nick Baumgartner will be heading to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
IRON RIVER—Iron River’s Nick Baumgartner will be a member of the U.S. Winter Olympics team that will be competing in Sochi, Russia, next month.
Baumgartner, 32, was chosen to the four-man U.S. men’s snowboard cross team Jan. 24 following Winter X Games competition in Aspen, Colo. He also competed for the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Last week, Baumgartner didn’t advance beyond the quarterfinals at the Winter X Games, but U.S. coaches selected him to the team as a discretionary choice.
He got the news that he had been selected over two-time gold medalist Seth Wescott just after the snowboard cross finals. The official announcement was made Jan. 25.
“We were just in (the athlete lounge),” Baumgartner told USA Today, “and the coaches were standing there and they looked at me and said, ‘Baum, we’re picking you for the Olympics.’ So to know that, I’m super excited.
“They told me and I said, ‘Can I tell my parents so they can tell people?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely.’”
USA Today said his first call was to Stambaugh Elementary School, where his 9-year-old son, Landon, is in fourth grade. He got patched through to the classroom and shared the news.
“I could barely get the words out without crying,” he was quoted as saying. “And then we got off the phone and then they told his class and then they called back and they were screaming, ‘Good luck!’ So it was unbelievable.”
Three U.S. riders automatically qualified for the team—two-time Olympian Nate Holland, Trevor Jacob and Alex Deibold. The final position was decided by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Baumgartner said he felt he made his case through his World Cup finishes this season. While he did not reach the podium, he was the only American man with three top-10 finishes—he took sixth at Lake Louise, Alberta, and sixth and eighth at separate events in Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra.
He is currently listed seventh in the World Cup standings. Jacob is the only American ahead of him, in fourth place.
In his Winter X Games quarterfinal race, another rider crashed into him, and Baumgartner finished fifth. He said it was his own fault that there was any question about the final spot on the U.S. team.
“I put myself in this situation by not making sure I just got on the podium (top three in the World Cup events),” he said. “I felt like my riding’s as strong as it’s ever been, and the way that I’ve been riding I figured if you want a good chance at a medal you take the chance on me.”
Wescott, 37, was trying to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and broken tibia he suffered last April in Alaska. He returned to World Cup competition in Andorra the weekend before. finishing no better than 31st.
Despite missing out on the Olympic team, Wescott said the more deserving rider made the Olympic team.
“I think Nick had definitely earned it through the World Cup,” Wescott said in the USA Today article. “He had some bad luck in Andorra. He got run into. He has probably been our most consistent rider throughout the entire season and hasn’t had the cards fall his way necessarily.
“The fact that the coaches were holding out as long as they were to give me a chance, I’m super appreciative of. But I’m not 100% yet.”
Baumgartner said he’s feeling good going into Sochi. “I think the way I’m riding right now, it’s going good,” he said.
“I’ve had some bad luck. I’ve had some things happen, but I’ve been making really smart decisions. I haven’t gotten the results I wanted, but it’s all building up. In Sochi, I think we’re going to make something special happen.”