A southern Vermont school for students pursuing passions in competitive skiing and riding is celebrating a milestone win at the Winter Olympics by one of its alums.
Lindsey Jacobellis, a 2003 graduate of Stratton Mountain School, won the first gold medal for Team USA in China — during her fifth Olympics.
At 36, still young by most standards, Jacobellis became the oldest U.S. woman to win gold at the Winter Olympics.
"I prefer the term 'seasoned,'" Jacobellis joked Wednesday in an interview following her gold medal win.
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The victory came in snowboard cross, which sees competitors race on a course full of turns and jumps.
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Sixteen years ago, a tough fall close to the finish meant silver, not gold, for Jacobellis, and another Olympic medal has been out of reach ever since — keeping her hungry til now.
"I try to always keep improving how I am mentally approaching everything and improving my physical, you know, aspect of everything," Jacobellis said. "And it just so happened that the stars aligned and it was my day."
At Stratton Mountain School, where future world-class skiers and riders combine athletics and academics, all the buzz is about the legendary alumna, who is a native of Connecticut.
"It’s really cool, and it’s honestly really inspiring," Will Clark, an SMS junior, said of the gold medal for Jacobellis.
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"She’s been riding boardercross her whole life," observed SMS sophomore Sky Koeppe, using an alternate name for snowboard cross. "She’s been killin’ it, and been winning — it just makes me think I have a chance."
With her victory, Jacobellis became Stratton Mountain School’s very first female graduate to win gold at a Winter Olympics — a new point of pride for faculty, staff, and students alike.
"It just shows with hard work and resilience, you can do anything," said Carson Thurber, the head of school for SMS.
The long journey to a gold medal position on an Olympic podium for Lindsey Jacobellis had her reflecting on the meaning of achievement.
"It’s not necessarily that you are winning in getting the medal, it’s the journey and what you’ve learned about yourself along the way and how you’ve grown as an individual," Jacobellis said. "If you keep trying to better yourself, then you’ve already won."
As for what’s next for the SMS grad and now gold medalist, Jacobellis said one of the things on her plate is a second printing of her children’s book about the dog she brought home from the Winter Olympics in Russia, titled, "Sochi: a True Story."