Westport CT’s Julia Marino takes home first United States medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics / Exemplifies Gold Medal Camaraderie and Sportsmanship.
Westport’s Julia Marino came through when it counted.
In more ways than one.
24 year old Julia landed the silver medal in Zhangjiakou, China in Women’s Slopestyle Snowboarding. She finished just behind gold medalist New Zealand’s 20 year old Zoi (pronounced ‘Zo-ee’) Sadowski-Synnnott, 5.2 points out of being the best in the world on Saturday night.
Improving on her 11th place finish at the 2014 Olympics in Pyeongchang, Julia put down a stellar second run. It was by far her best of the year.
“I’m just so over the moon to have landed that top to bottom,” she said after the medal ceremony.”
Slopestyle is a snowboarding event in which contestants get three runs through a course of features which include pipes and huge jumps. Judges score each run. The competitor with the highest point total for a single run wins.
Her first time through the course, Julia lost her balance attempting a 900 on the 4th feature. She sat back on landing, obscuring herself in a cloud of snow kicked up by her dragging derrière. The judges awarded her a paltry 30.61 points, placing her 9th. Sadowski-Synnnott scored 84.51 on her initial run, good for the lead.
Then came run number 2.
Julia started with a pretzel off the first feature, hopping onto and sliding across the metal pipe. She followed with an under flip off the cannon rail, a unique move she was the only one to attempt.
On the first jump, she did a precise Backside 900. In snowboarding, the number in a move’s name refers to the degrees of spin. Each half spin is 180 degrees. A ‘900’ is 2 1/2 rotations. Frontside or Backside specifies the direction of the spin, with either the front or back shoulder initiating. Spins can be combined with flips; the number of rotations specified by the words, ‘single’, ‘double’, or in men’s snowboarding, ‘triple’.
Coming out of the steep ramp of jump number two, Julia launched into a Double 900, grabbing her board and spinning 2 1/2 times.
On the third and final jump, she went for broke. She attempted a Frontside Double Cork 1080, and landed it perfectly.
Announcer Todd Richards screamed into the microphone it was the best run he had ever seen from her. Julia seemed to agree. After snapping out of her bindings, she let loose a shriek of ecstasy.
The judges rewarded her with a whopping 87.68 points.
With her board tucked under her left arm, she gave a wave of celebration with her right. She punctuated her achievement with an excited, “Yeah!”, as she walked back to the lift.
With one run to go, Julia had the lead.
On her final turn, she again went for broke. She landed an impressive series of tricks before falling forward out of her 1080 on her culminating jump.
Knowing that going for something exceptional was the only chance, competitor after competitor also fell. The quick, slick snow seemed not at all conducive for outrageous attempts. 2014 and 2018 gold medalist American Jamie Anderson seemed the exception. Until she fell out of a Frontside 1080 on her last jump. Japanese 17 year old Kokomo Murase tried a 1260 mid-course, only to tumble through her unsuccessful landing.
Finally, it was down to Sadowski-Synnott. Julia would win gold or silver.
Westport was pulling for gold.
The New Zealand snowboard specialist started off.
Julia brought her hand to her mouth, watching intently.
On the third feature, Sadowski-Synnott slightly lost her balance. The Kiwi willed herself to keep her line. She impressed on her first two jumps, a Switch Backside 900 and and a Frontside Double Cork 1080.
It would come down to jump number three.
Zoi seemed to slide into the final jump with more speed than she wanted. The steep ramp catapulted her high into the air. Completing her Backside Double Cork 1080, she was still six feet above the slope.
The great impact of her landing threw her forwards. Her left mitten grazed the snow. She stayed on her feet only through leg strength and sheer determination.
Julia flung her arms in the air and exclaimed, “Oh-ho-ho God!” in awe and admiration.
She ran out and tackled Zoi. She was immediately followed by Tess Coady, an Australian competitor just behind Julia on the leaderboard, who jumped on the pile.
Sadowski-Synnott had scored a great run.
Now, it was up to the judges.
The three women stood side by side smiling and supporting one another. Julia was in the middle. They waited expectantly not knowing who had won.
Sadowski-Synnot had the gold. Julia the silver.
The three embraced in solidarity.
Still, Julia had the gold in another way.
In camaraderie and sportsmanship.
Grinning ear to ear, she spoke into the microphone and answered questions from NBC sportscaster Randy Moss.
“I’m so happy for all the girls out here. Like, we have a great crew. We’re all really good friends. I mean, it just means a lot to me to watch all these girls really ride their best. That wasn’t an easy course, by any means. I’m so proud of us. We all pulled through. I couldn’t be happier to be in that final with those girls.”
“Zoi’s an inspiration to all of us. She’s the best rider right now. She’s just, like, making us all push our levels. I just couldn’t be happier for her. She is a great person and a great rider. I love to share the podium with her. I’m more than happy.”
Julia Marino will always be America’s first medal winner at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
She’s an inspiration to all of us.
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