Vaultier repeats as Olympic champion in men’s snowboardcross

Pyeongchang Olympics Snowboard Men_623119

From bottom to top; Pierre Vaultier, of France, Jarryd Hughes, of Australia, Markus Schairer, of Austria, and Hanno Douschan, of Austria, runs the course during the men’s snowboard cross elimination round at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Pierre Vaultier of France is back atop the Olympic podium in men’s snowboardcross.

Vaultier defended the title he won at the Sochi Games four years ago on Thursday by overcoming a crash that nearly ended his chances in the semifinals. The 30-year-old Frenchman picked himself up to finish third and move on to the finals, where he led the six-man pack for most of the way down the mountain at Phoenix Snow Park.

Jarryd Hughes of Australia took silver, with Regino Hernandez of Spain earning a rare Winter Games medal for his country by taking bronze.

American teammates Nick Baumgartner and Mick Dierdorff advanced to the final but both washed out on a jump and finished well back of the leaders.

Snowboardcross is part race, part matter of survival as riders battle inches apart down a series of bumps, jumps and dips. Riders are seeded based on time in qualifying but after that, anything goes. All that matters is finishing in the top half of your race to advance through the elimination rounds.

Vaultier posted the best time in qualifying and easily moved into the semifinals but ran into serious trouble midway through when he lost his edge. He managed to get up in time to come in third, more than 16 seconds behind the top two finishers.

It hardly mattered in the final. Vaultier wasted little time getting to the lead and smoothly navigated his way through the obstacles in his way, keeping his altitude under control on the jumps that sent some riders sprawling. He pumped his fists and roared as he crossed the line to pick up France’s second gold at the Snow Park. Teammate Perrine Laffont took the top spot in women’s moguls on Sunday.

Hughes nipped Hernandez for silver, though it hardly bothered him. His bronze was the first in the Winter Games by a Spaniard since the 1992 Albertville Games.

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