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American duo makes history with first-ever gold in mixed team snowboard cross

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Score one for the old folks.

Between them, Nick Baumgartner, 40, and Lindsey Jacobellis, 36, have nine Olympic appearances. Prior to this week, they combined for all of one medal — the silver that Jacobellis won in heartbreaking fashion in Turin back in 2006, when an ill-timed stunt cost her a victory.

Age brings wisdom, and in their case, it also brings gold. Baumgartner and Jacobellis combined to win gold in the first-ever mixed team snowboard cross. Baumgartner caught and passed Italy's Omar Visintin in his heat, and Jacobellis eluded a wreck that took out two of her competitors in her heat. Final total margin of victory over Italy: 0.24 seconds.

For Jacobellis, it was her second gold of these Games; for Baumgartner, it was the triumphant conclusion to a lifetime of near-misses.

"I've been on this team 20 years, Nick's been on the team 17," Jacobellis said. "We are like a family. We go through hard times, we know how to pick each other up … It all comes into play when you can put it together and make it work for you."

While their younger teammates will stay up late hanging out and playing video games, Jacobellis and Baumgartner will tap out earlier, work harder, stretch more … anything to keep that edge.

"You get hungrier, you want it more, because you know there's an expiration date, and you know it's coming," Baumgartner said. "As you get older, it's tough to watch the younger kids come up and try to push you out of the sport … As long as you have the hunger, you can push yourself to another level."

Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner of Team United States (R) celebrate winning the gold medal during the snowboard mixed team cross big final at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner of Team United States (R) celebrate winning the gold medal during the snowboard mixed team cross big final at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Snowboard cross lends itself to longevity, because the variable terrain and conditions require experience to understand how to navigate courses.

"There's just so many uncontrolled variables. It's so rare that you get the same circumstance," Jacobellis said. "So it takes years to understand how to best execute certain situations. You saw today how drastically the speed changed, and we had to completely change up our game plan."

"In a sport like snowboard cross that's unpredictable, it takes experience to predict even the littlest things," Baumgartner said. "We've seen so much. We've been through so many heats. That's what allows us to stay competitive for so long … There's no other snowboarding event that you can be competitive at 40 years old. Not even competitive, we're the ones to beat today."

The mixed snowboard cross was the first event since news broke wide that U.S. Ski & Snowboard is investigating incidents of alleged harassment and racism involving coach Peter Foley and another Olympian. Both Jacobellis and Baumgartner issued a full-throated support of Foley.

"It's definitely been super upsetting to have that when we're trying to focus and it definitely breaks up our team energy a little bit," Jacobellis said. "But in my 20 years on the team I can speak very highly of his character. He's always been supporting me through everything I've gone through, and he helped me find an amazing mental health coach to help me prepare for this moment here today."

"Peter Foley, we've grown so many years together," Baumgartner said. "I can't speak any higher of that man. He's done so much for us. All the coolest moments of my life have been alongside that man. I love that guy like a father."

Baumgartner spends his summers pouring concrete in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, both to keep himself in shape and to keep his dream financed. He's a walking success story, the pure distillation of the out-of-nowhere Olympian. And he's more than willing to share his secrets.

"You're never too late to take what you want from life and follow your dreams. You let yourself down if you take yourself out too early," Baumgartner said, with the volume and cadence of a motivational speaker. "You get one shot at life, and you shouldn't let anything stop you. It doesn't matter how old you are."