Alena Zavarzina won an Olympic bronze medal for Russia in the women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom at the Sochi Games, only to be outdone by her husband.
About 10 minutes after Zavarzina crossed the finish line at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, American-born Vic Wild gave Russia a gold medal in the men’s event.
Wild, 27, who became a Russian citizen in 2012 when he married former world champion Zavarzina, said he was unable to afford to train at an elite level in the U.S.
“I want to thank Russia for giving me the opportunity to win a gold medal,” Wild said after his triumph, telling reporters that though he now lives in Moscow he has not learned to speak Russian. “My teammates helped me so much. I don’t think many of them like me, but I really appreciate it.”
Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland won silver in the men’s event today, and Zan Kosir of Slovenia took the bronze. In the women’s event, Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland captured the gold medal and the silver went to Japan’s Tomoka Takeuchi.
Wild and Zavarzina are not the first married couple to take medals in the same Olympic event for men and women. Raphael Poiree of France won bronze and Liv Grete Poiree of Norway took silver as members of their nations’ biathlon relay teams at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
“My wife and I won medals, you can’t ask for more,” Wild said. “I was so stoked. I would rather we both have a medal than just one of us.”
The Russian flag-waving crowd erupted in celebration when Zavarzina, competing a month after breaking her arm, got the bronze medal. The cheers were just as loud when Wild gave Russia its first Olympic gold medal in a snowboard event.
Zavarzina, 24, was so busy celebrating her medal that she had no idea where Wild stood in the competition until told by reporters at the bottom of the course.
“It’s the first time we are the winners together,” she said. “He has had the most incredible journey. He deserves it more than anyone.”
Even Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev got into the act, releasing a statement on the government’s website saying “you confirmed your mastery and status as one of the best snowboarders on the planet.”
Wild said in an interview three weeks ago that Medvedev signed a decree that allowed him to get Russian citizenship without giving up his U.S. passport.
“The medal of the highest kind in the parallel giant slalom is a worthy continuation of your sports career under the Russian flag,” Medvedev’s statement said. “We are proud of you and wish you new victories.”
Wild is a native of White Salmon, Washington, about 72 miles (116 kilometers) east of Portland, Oregon. He said he harbors no ill will toward the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
“I didn’t have the support I needed,” he said. “The USOC and the USSA do a great job, but not everyone can be happy. I don’t hold a grudge. I am here now doing what I want to do, and it’s all good.”
-- With assistance from Jason Corcoran in Moscow and Christopher Spillane in Sochi. Editor: Peter-Joseph Hegarty