John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Snowboarder Vic Wild has been waiting for this winter, but for the Olympic hopeful it's about a lot more than gold, silver or bronze. It's about getting back on snow and racing.
Last season, an ankle injury forced the Alpine snowboard racer to watch from the sidelines as the top athletes in his sport battled for position on the World Cup circuit.
It was frustrating. Wild broke his ankle in 2007, but it never healed properly. Finally, he decided to take a seat and let the doctors have a shot at repairing the ankle.
This year, after enduring four off-season surgeries to repair the crippled ankle, Wild is back on snow and back in the World Cup standings with an eighth-place finish at the opening event of the season. The parallel slalom event was held Oct. 9 in Landgraaf, Netherlands.
"I started riding again in August," Wild said. "I was stoked with my finish. It was a decent way to start off the season, but I don't think it really means anything. It was just a good result."
Wild was the top American in the event, which is held in an indoor ski area built in the Netherlands. Benjamin Karl, of Austria, won the race, Mathieu Bozzetto, of France, was second and Jasey Jay Anderson, of Canada, was third.
Other Americans at the top of the results included several with ties to Steamboat Springs. Zac Kay was 14th, Tyler Jewell was 15th, Justin Reiter was 16th, and Josh Wylie was 17th.
Wild said he was thrilled with the finish, but he said it would have little impact on his drive to make the U.S. Olympic Team this winter.
"This result doesn't change anything," Wild said. "I'm not thinking about the Olympics. I am focused on doing what I need to do to become one of the strongest riders on the World Cup. When I get to that point, the Olympics will fall into place."
Wild said he prefers to focus on the big picture instead of one event like the Olympics.
"We will train thousands of days and compete hundreds of times in a career," Wild said. "It's not healthy to think that it's all about one day and one competition. The Olympics are cool, and I can't say that I don't want to be there. But snowboarding is about a lot more than just the Olympics for me."
Wild trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club from 2002 through 2007. These days, he is living in Park City, Utah, in an effort to stay close to the U.S. Snowboarding team and its resources.
However, Wild said he still gets back to Steamboat Springs and also finds a few days each season to train with Winter Sports Club coach Thedo Remmelink.