SANDPOINT — Flashing arguably the best form of his career, Sandpoint native Nate Holland cemented his stranglehold on the Winter X Games, claiming his sixth gold medal in the Men’s Snowboarder X on Saturday.
American riders swept the podium, with last year’s champion Nick Baumgartner, a former college football player taking second and Jayson Hale third in a rough and tumble final at Buttermilk.
Holland now has two gold medals and a silver in his last three SBX events, his latest gold coming on the heels of a strong World Cup showing in Austria, which vaulted him into the overall points lead.
After leading for nearly every second of the quarterfinals and semis, Holland was bunched in a tight pack in the finals before avoiding a pile up in front of him and cruising to the finish. Avoiding the carnage that occurs often in SBX is often as important as riding fast.
“I overshot a jump up in the start,” Holland said after the race, explaining how he ended up bunched in the pack at the top of the course. “I was hitting my hole shots all day so that was pretty much the only time all day I rode in traffic.”
Holland was tangled up with France’s Pierre Vaultier, who along with American Seth Wescott and Holland is one of the consensus top three riders in the sport. Holland claimed gold from 2006 to 2010, prophetically joking before X Games that the gold was on a one-year lease.
“Watching Nate and Pierre rubbing back-to-back in the finals was the most exciting moment,” said Rebecca Holland, who along with husband, Don, made the trip down to Aspen to watch their two sons vie for gold.
Pat Holland was also competing in the Snowboarder X, and posted the ninth fastest time in qualifying. He was leading his quarterfinal heat halfway through the course before an Italian rider clipped the back of his board and caused a wreck, which is simply part of the fabric of SBX.
“Pat did everything right and had it in his sights to advance,” said Rebecca Holland. “(He) is now hungry for the next competition.”
Both Holland brothers will compete in a double World Cup in Ontario, Canada on Feb. 7-8.
Former Sandpoint resident Brandon Adam was fifth in the semifinal heat of the Mono Skier X, finishing more than 20 seconds off the lead after crashing. Adam, who won Silver at the 2011 Winter X Games, is one of the top riders in the emerging sport of mono ski and was hoping to contend for gold at X Games.
Adam is hoping to start racing on a pro circuit, as the sport is hoping to make it into a future Olympics.