Imagine a guy is literally a few yards from securing a World Championship in the sport he loves, the sport he lives, and then makes a crucial mistake. Yet somehow, it was everything before that series of events that almost drove him to tears.
The journey that Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club rider Justin Reiter has been on is the reason why that could make sense. And on Sunday, competing in the 2013 FIS World Championship parallel slalom, Reiter saw his hard work pay off.
Reiter lost in the championship finals in about the worst way imaginable, missing the third-to-final gate. That’s not what set his eyes watering, though.
“I have an amazing support group, but to travel to the World Championships and the World Cup without a team, without a coach, that’s tough,” he said. “I utilize the support of the Winter Sports Club whenever I can, but when I’m on the road, I’m solo.”
So when he won in the semifinals, guaranteeing at least a silver medal, Reiter said his euphoria was so great, it overcame the disappointment that was looming.
Reiter finished second at the FIS World Championships in Stoneham, Quebec, securing the best finish of his career and the second podium of these World Championships for the Winter Sports Club.
“I almost started crying when I realized I had a medal in my pocket,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to accomplish this. I had the win in my hands and I made one mistake, but I will happily settle for second today.”
Reiter beat Canadian Jasey-Jay Anderson, then Nevin Galmarini in the 16-rider bracket before taking out Italy’s Roland Fischnaller in the semifinals to ensure that medal.
“He carved his turns really nicely and he kept his rhythm and speed really well,” said Winter Sports Club coach Thedo Remmelink, watching the finals via a computer in Steamboat Springs. “He had a very solid rhythm and that gave him the wins.”
In the finals, Reiter earned a 0.7 second lead on Slovenia’s Rok Marguc in the first of two runs, then was leading all the way through the second run when he cut just inside one of the final gates.
That dropped him from gold to silver.
“I was feeling very confident, very good, and I led him all the way until that gate,” Reiter said. “I just heard him. I heard a little bit of sound there and it was enough pressure to distract me.
“It’s a very difficult event. We take 10 runs to get all way to the podium, so consistency is often more rewarded than speed, and today that was the case. He was very consistent, and unfortunately, I made one mistake.”
Reiter’s perspective comes from years of struggle in the sport he loves. He just missed fulling his Olympic dreams in 2006 and 2010 when he didn’t make those teams. The disappointment from 2010 helped drive him away from the sport, and he retired in 2011. Life away from snowboarding didn’t prove to be the answer either, and he returned, racing in one World Cup in January 2012 before hitting the circuit full time again this season.
He said he is focused on the 2014 Olympics, but through his ups and downs — a story that now includes a World Championship podium and, somehow at the same time, heartbreak — he’s learned that his existence in the sport is bigger than one event.
“My goal is to ride,” he said. “I want to ride and reach my potential, and I don’t know what that is. My goal is to be a well-rounded person, not a selfish athlete who goes out and wins at all costs. ... I don’t know what my ultimate goal is. I just want to go into each race and try to do my best, win as many races as I can and have fun doing it.”
That’s how a guy can crash so close to glory and come away smiling.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com