Seth Wescott





Snowboard cross athlete

Born June 28, 1976, in Durham, NC; son of Jim Wescott (a college professor and coach) and Margaret Gould-Wescott (a college professor). Education: Attended Western State College, Gunnison, CO.

Addresses: Contact —U.S. Olympic Committee, One Olympic Pl., Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

Career

Began cross-country skiing at the age of three; began alpine skiing at the age of eight; began snowboarding at the age of ten; competed in alpine skiing and snowboarding events, 1986-89; focused solely on snowboarding events, beginning in 1989; focused on halfpipe events, 1996-97; began competing in snowboard cross (SBX) events, 1997; U.S. national champion in SBX, 2000-03; won silver in SBX at the Winter X Games, 2002; was third overall in World Tour rankings for SBX, 2002; ceased to compete in halfpipe after finishing tenth, 2003; won silver in SBX at the World Championships, 2003; won silver in SBX at the Winter X Games, 2004; finished second in SBX at the World Cup, 2004; finished second in SBX at the Winter X Games, 2005; won gold in SBX at the World Championships, 2005; won gold medal in SBX at Winter Olympic Games, 2006.

Sidelights

Snowboard athlete Seth Wescott moved from competing in halfpipe to the emerging sport of snowboard cross (SBX; also known in the United

States as boardercross) in the late 1990s. He soon became the dominant men's SBX racer in the world, primarily competing in big races and skipping most World Cup events. After lobbying to have SBX included in the Olympics, Wescott won the gold medal in dramatic fashion at the 2006 games in Turin, Italy.

Born in 1976 in Durham, North Carolina, he is the son of Jim Westcott, and his wife, Margaret Gould-Wescott. At the time, his father was a track and field coach at North Carolina State University, while his mother was a modern dance college professor. When Wescott was two years old, his parents moved the family, which included his sister, Sarah, to their home state of Maine. Wescott was raised in Farmington, Maine, while his parents were professors at nearby colleges.

Athletics were a part of Wescott's life from an early age. He started cross-country skiing when he was three years old, playing soccer when he was six, and alpine skiing when he was eight. When he was ten years old, Westcott began snowboarding. Beginning in 1986, he competed in both alpine skiing and snowboarding events for three years. In 1989, Wescott gave up alpine skiing to focus on snow-boarding, competing primarily on the halfpipe. He also played soccer and was a member of the track and field team, competing in sprints and jumps, throughout high school. Wescott graduated from the Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine, where many winter athletes are students and their sports are part of the school's curriculum. Wescott then attended Western State College in Colorado for a year and a half.

In the mid- to late 1990s, Wescott focused on competing in snowboarding events. From 1996 to 1997, he primarily competed in men's halfpipe. Beginning in 1997, however, Wescott's athletic focus began to slowly change. SBX was emerging as a recognized snowboarding sport, and he began competing in SBX events as well, though he also competed in the halfpipe through 2003. What attracted Wescott to SBX was the fact that victories were clear-cut, unlike the halfpipe, which is a judged event. In his bio on NBCOlympics.com, Wescott was quoted as saying, "I like snowboard cross because I get rewarded for what I do."

In SBX competitions, four competitors break out of a gate and ride snowboards down a 3,000-foot course (similar to a downhill skiing course or motocross track course). They race over jumps and turns to the finish. SBX races are fast and the potential for collision is great, and crashes occur regularly. During the elimination heats, the four racers are primarily competing against the clock to get the field to 32. After that point, the four racers are competing against each other, with the winner of each race moving on to the next round until the final four remain and someone wins the final race.

As Wescott embraced SBX, he still took halfpipe seriously. He almost made the 1998 U.S. Olympic team in the halfpipe. He told Jenn Menendez of the Portland Press Herald, "In my eyes I did the best and most technical run ever (trying to make the 1998 team), and for whatever reason the judges didn't let me advance. I got frustrated with the halfpipe side of things." Wescott soon specialized in SBX over such frustrations, though he again tried to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2002 in halfpipe. He believed that judging is what ultimately prevented him from making the team.

Wescott began winning SBX events in the early 2000s. Between 2000 and 2003, he was the U.S. national champion in SBX. In 2001, Wescott tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) during a World Cup competition in Sapporo, Japan, on a jump, but continued to compete after recovering. He won silver in SBX in 2002 at the Winter X Games. At the end of the year, Wescott was third overall in World Tour rankings for SBX.

In 2003, Wescott began training for SBX in a stimulating new way: big mountain riding in Alaska. He would ride on a helicopter, strap on his snowboard, and be dropped on a mountain that had not been ridden before. Wescott would descend down the mountain along whatever terrain he would find, including steep faces. One drop in 2003 resulted in an avalanche which moved him 750 feet. Wescott found big mountain riding exhilarating and believed the challenges he faced helped him compete in SBX better. That year, Wescott won silver in SBX at the World Championships. He finished tenth in the half-pipe in the same competition. This event marked his last competition in halfpipe. In 2004, Wescott won silver in SBX at the Winter X Games and finished second at World Cup. One victory in 2005 was particularly difficult. After finishing second in SBX at the Winter X Games, he hurt his left knee and suffered a severe cut in his right leg a week before the World Championships. Wescott still competed and though the binding on his boots became loose in the semifinals just as he left the gate, he was able to fix it while still moving and won. Wescott then won gold in SBX at the World Championships in 2005.

In addition to competing and winning SBX events, Wescott spent much of his time lobbying for the sport on an international level. He tried to develop interest in SBX in the United States and Europe by pushing the sport in the press at every opportunity. Wescott also worked to get it included in the Winter Olympics, a goal reached when the Olympic Committee agreed to include it in the 2006 games. Wescott had some reservations about how good the Olympic course would be in Turin, Italy, and took the initiative to make guidelines for the sport by becoming SBX's World Cup tour overseer for the International Federation of Skiing.

Wescott had a life outside of SBX as well. He planned on building a house on 21 acres he owned in Maine's Carrabassett Valley. In 2005, he and some friends bought a restaurant located at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, The Rack. Wescott also planned on completing his college degree some day, probably in journalism.

Early in 2006, Wescott was named to the U.S. snow-boarding team for the Winter Olympics and competed in the first-ever SBX event at the Olympics. His gold medal victory in SBX was dramatic. Wescott made the finals, but was losing to Radoslav Zidek in the medal run when Wescott passed him on a banked turn. Wescott told Eddie Pells of the Buffalo News, "I just knew if I was patient and confident that I'd reach the part of the course that I could work a little better, catch the speed on him. Then coming into that one turn, I drove the inside line on him like clockwork. That's how it worked out." Wescott won the race. Of his victory, he told Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle, "This allows me to achieve a goal that I've been pretty single-mindedly focused on for the last several years. It's the end of a long road, and it fulfills a dream."

Sources

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 17, 2006, p. E7.

Boston Globe, February 6, 2003, p. E8; February 17, 2006, p. D1.

Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), February 16, 2006, p. D1.

Houston Chronicle, February 17, 2006, p. 1.

Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2006, p. S4.

Newsweek, December 26, 2005, p. 84.

Portland Press Herald (Portland, ME), January 23, 2005, p. D3; January 29, 2006, p. D1.

Times (London, England), February 17, 2006, p. 94.

Online

"Seth Wescott/A Team—Snowboardcross," U.S. Snowboard Team, http://www.usssnowboard ing.org/team_details_print.php?bio_id=34 (May 1, 2006).

"Seth Wescott," NBCOlympics.com, http://www.nbcolympics.com/athletes/5058608/detail.html?qs=;t=11;tab=B o (May 1, 2006).

"Seth Wescott," United States Olympic Committee, http://www.usoc.org/26_38187.htm (May 1, 2006).

A. Petruso



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