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A Gold Medal, Lost in a Flash

American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis lost a gold medal at the Olympics when she hotdogged at the end of her run. It was a painful way to learn the difference between being a star and being a champion.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Yesterday Lindsey Jacobellis learned the difference between being a star and being a champion. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old from Stratton, Vermont had to learn it with millions of people watching the Winter Olympics Games. Ms. Jacobellis was 50 yards ahead of Tanya Friede of Switzerland in the first woman's snowboard cross race ever in the Olympics. She looked over her shoulder and saw no one.

Now, all the rest you'll hear today, that she felt the weight of an Olympics gold medal around her neck and heard the ka-ching of endorsing platinum American Express cards in here ears, is speculation.

Ms. Jacobellis says only that her legs felt like string and the wind was strong. She wanted to stabilize herself in the air going over the next to the last jump so she grabbed the bottom of her board the way showboating snowboarders and skateboarders do from Basil to Mumba to Detroit. It's a flourish like French cuffs, ribbons on a present or whipped cream and a cherry. Then Lindsey Jacobellis fell to earth, slam dunk under snow-suited bottom, scrambled to her knees and crawled across the finish line for second place, and a silver medal.

Then something really terrible happened. Sportswriters and broadcasters, who can sound as sanctimonious as the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, began to psychoanalyze, second guess and pity Lindsey Jacobellis. When she said she was only trying to stabilize herself, they demanded more, as if she'd fired buckshot into her hunting partner.

Her coach, Peter Fray(ph), was shown sinking into the snow with his hands over his eyes as if he'd just seen the Hindenburg burst into flames. At first he told reporters, Well, I guess she was trying just to stay stable, but obliging broadcasters ran the videotape for him over and over again like it was the beating of Rodney King.

Until he finally said, She definitely styled a little too hard there. Snowboard racing, pipelining, the half pipe, the double half calf mocha-chino, and whatever they call the other new Olympic sports, were included to bring a little new zing into the old games. You can't want to put their flash zing and bling on primetime TV and then expect young performers to act with the circumspection of Condoleezza Rice.

Lindsey Jacobellis's family rushed over to hug her as she wiped up the ice from her pants. Her parents' pride isn't so much in having a daughter who wins medals as much as one who is willing to be at practice at 5:00 in the morning, morning after morning, to achieve something. And last night she suggested to reporters in a conference call that what they called showboating she considers joy. I was having fun, she said. Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well. It happens. It does.

(Soundbite of Ella Fitzgerald song)

Ms. ELLA FITZGERALD (Singer): When I was a kid, about half past three, my ma said, daughter, come here to me. Said things may come, and things may go, but this is one thing you ought to know. Oh, t'ain't what you do with the way that you do it. T'ain't what you do with the way that you do it. T'ain't what you do with the way that you do it. That's what gets results. T'ain't what you do with the time that you do it. T'ain't what you do with the time that you do it. T'ain't what you do with the time that you do it. That's what get results. You can try hard. Do...

SIMON: Ella. Who else? Eighteen minutes past the hour.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small
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