American snowboarder Rosey Fletcher seemed on track to win a gold medal Thursday in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Melezet Ski Area in Bardonecchia, Italy. But she insists she wasn't thinking about the final result.
"From the beginning, I've been enjoying the journey and trying not to think about the destination," Fletcher said.
When the race was over, Fletcher was without a gold medal, but she collected the bronze in her third Olympic appearance, ending the frustration of being shut out in the Salt Lake City and Nagano, Japan, games.
Fletcher did not finish in Alpine snowboarding's Olympic debut in Nagano in 1998, and she finished a disappointing 26th in her second Olympic appearance in Salt Lake City. This time, she credited a fresh approach for her success.
Instead of focusing on the pressure of winning a medal that often accompanies an Olympic competition, she said she simply tried to focus on snowboarding.
The formula worked, as Fletcher posted the second-fastest time during qualifying at 1 minute, 20.88 seconds. Russian rider Ekaterina Tudigescheva was the only rider faster than Fletcher at 1:20.85.
But it takes 10 consistent runs to win a parallel giant slalom event, and on Thursday, Fletcher could come up with only nine. A mistake midway through her second semifinal run against Switzerland's Daniela Meuli kept the American out of the big finals, the race that determines gold and silver.
Meuli went on to defeat Germany's Ameilie Kober in that duel to take the gold medal in front of dozens of cowbell-ringing Swiss fans who packed the second deck of the Olympic Stadium.
Fletcher rebounded in the finals to earn the bronze by beating Austria's Doris Guenther.
"It feels awesome," Fletcher said. "From Day 1, I knew this would be one hell of an Olympics, and it was."