Watched dumbfounded with everyone else last night as Lindsey Jacobellis gave up the gold due to a stupid mistake, and then basically lied on camera about it (she first said she had grabbed her board to “stabilize” the jump). Almost immediately, Costas and the pundits pegged her backside method as “showboating” and blamed it all on overconfidence. This morning’s papers, more of the same — Jacobellis was showing off, blah blah blah. There’s another side to this.
First of all, it’s not like a backside method is any big deal of a trick. It’s a simple tail kick in the air – the kind of thing average riders do on the slopes of any mountain every day, and probably something Jacobellis has done 10,000 times in similar conditions. But for freak reasons, she landed it slightly wrong.
Second, remember that Jacobellis is the only woman rider who does both halfpipe and snowboardcross. ‘Cross offers no points for style, so the smart rider won’t attempt any. But halfpipe is all about style, and it’s likely that doing that kind of thing on a jump is just part of her groove thang.
Third, as she said to Costas, she wasn’t really thinking about it – she was just barreling down the run, having a ball. And a little method is just the kind of thing you do when you’re having fun.
Fourth, if she really wasn’t aware of how much of a lead she had, as she claimed to Costas, then she wasn’t in a position to be doing arrogant things, and the showboating argument falls apart. The tail kick could also be used to throw off neighboring riders in mid-air; it might have partially been an instinctive strategic move.
Yeah, it was a stupid thing to do. But the pundits skewering her for “showboating” aren’t seeing the whole picture, and are raking her across, I think, a few too many coals. The impression left is that it was typical American arrogance. I think it was more innocent than that: A freak bad landing of a very simple, albeit unnecessary, trick.