(L-R) Jake Vedder and Nate Holland.
Nate Holland and Jake Vedder are on opposite ends of the spectrum in their snowboardcross careers, but both are among the athletes looking for success on U.S. soil at the FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships this week in Utah.
“I’m a 40-year-old man now and Jake here is 20 so he’s actually closer in age to my 3-year-old daughter than he is to me,” said Holland, a three-time Olympian, from a press conference ahead of the world championships at Solitude Mountain Resort. “There’s a difference in age and it’s fun. The young guys keep me youthful on tour and that spark in their eye that I see keeps it fun. I’ve been on tour a long time and it can become wear and tear at times and these kids spark it up for me.”
Thirty events will be contested at the world championships, taking place from Feb. 1 through Feb. 10, and snowboardcross will be first up with men’s and women’s qualification on Thursday and the finals on Friday.
Holland made his Olympic debut in 2006 and competed again in 2010 and 2014, finishing fourth in 2010, and is a veteran of five world championships, winning the bronze medal in 2007 and again in 2011. He is the country’s most decorated men’s snowboardcross athlete. He had planned on retiring last year, he said on Wednesday, but after winning the final event of the season in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, and seeing the world championships were set to take place in Utah, he decided to compete one more year.
Vedder is only just beginning. He won gold at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016 then won gold at the junior world championships in 2018 and is coming off his first world cup podium.
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“I have a lot of confidence coming into this event,” he said. “I look forward to racing on Friday.”
Other notable U.S. men include Mick Dierdorff, who was fifth at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, and three-time Olympian Nick Baumgartner.
On the women’s side, Lindsey Jacobellis will be looking for an unprecedented sixth snowboardcross world championship title and a 6-for-6 record in her career. With 30 world cup wins, she is the most successful female snowboard athlete of all time.
Joining her in her pursuit of gold will be up-and-comer Anna Miller, from nearby Orem, Utah, who is coming off two 16th-place world cup finishes in December and 2018 Olympian Meghan Tierney.
Tierney said that when it comes to the magnitude of an event such as the world championships, she just tries to put it in the back of her mind.
“There’s always going to be pressure,” she said. “I just kind of try to block that out and focus on my riding. I don’t like to pay attention to it too much.”
Holland said the course the athletes will tackle has a technical start and then a big drop-in that will have them at top speed.
“I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous about that drop-in,” he said. “It is top speed but once I got it figured out, watched a few guys go and talked to the coaches I actually really like this course better than two years ago. I’m super excited for the race. I think it’s going to suit me well.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.