KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA – Vic loves Alena. Alena loves Vic.
Russia loves them both.
The edgy world of snowboarding took on a softer side Wednesday, weaving a Hollywood-ready story about love and marriage, gold and bronze, lifelong goals fulfilled amid just a touch of political intrigue.
Vic Wild, an American native who now competes for Russia, captured the Olympic gold medal in parallel giant slalom about 15 minutes after his wife, Russia’s Alena Zavarzina, won the bronze.
“For both of us to have success on the same day, it’s truly incredible,” Wild said. “I don’t know how this happened.”
It started five years ago while they were traveling in the same pack on the World Cup snowboard racing circuit. Vic, born and raised in White Salmon, Washington, competed for the United States. Alena, a native of Novosibirsk, rode for Russia.
“When I first met her, I knew something was a little different, so I was very careful with how our relationship went,” Wild said. “Very, very, very careful.”
Love bloomed. Zavarzina, the 2011 world champion, doesn’t enjoy sharing every little detail. “I’ll tell them when I’m old, in my memoir,” she said.
Meanwhile, parallel giant slalom — essentially Alpine racing on a snowboard — was going nowhere in America, even after its greatest moment in that country, the stirring bronze-medal victory of liver transplant survivor Chris Klug at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Financial support dwindled. Wild saw where things were headed and dreamed about how great it would be to ride for Russia.
Neither Wild, 27, nor Zavarzina, 24, considered themselves the marrying types. But that was the quickest way for Wild to gain citizenship and a chance to compete for a country that puts more money than America into this more Europe-centric version of snowboarding.
So, they tied the knot in July 2011 in what Wild described as “a full-on Siberian wedding.”
“It was crazy and probably more stressful than today,” he said. “I was so scared. Walking into one building and thinking to myself, ‘Dude, you’re way too far away to run.’ I had to walk through. Best decision I ever made.”
The gold-medal payoff came on a sun-soaked afternoon on the mountain where hundreds of Russian fans chanted “Mo-Lo-Detz, Mo-Lo-Detz” — Russian for “Well Done” — every time Wild and Zavarzina came down the hill and won, which was a lot.
Parallel giant slalom starts with 16 riders bracketed based on qualifying times posted earlier in the day. From there, the head-to-head racing consists of two trips down the mountain, with the fastest rider over the two heats advancing to the next round.
The day could’ve ended with husband and wife both holding gold, but Zavarzina skidded out 12 gates from the bottom in the second heat of her semifinal against eventual gold medalst Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland.
A few minutes later, Wild won his semifinal race, meaning he was assured of either gold or silver.
Then, it was Zavarzina’s turn again. She beat Austria’s Ina Meschik in the third-place race to guarantee there would be an Olympic medal on both nightstands back at their Moscow flat.
Wild closed out the racing with a second-heat comeback in the final against Switzerland’s Nevin Galmarini.
Then came the celebration. Husband and wife met for a long embrace at the bottom, followed by the requisite photo op — the two draping the Russian flag over their shoulders, flowers in one hand, snowboards in the other.