Rebagliati wins landmark snowboarding gold

Picture by Getty

Snowboarding was still a relatively new sport, having staged its first world championship in 1983, with its first international professional tour only launched four years later. Yet by the time of the Nagano 1998 Winter Games it was growing rapidly, both in terms of athletes and popularity, across North America and in Europe. The IOC decided that it was time to fast-track the sport onto the Olympic programme, and it made its much anticipated debut in Nagano.

The opening event was the men's giant slalom and after the first run, Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson held the lead, ahead of Italy's Thomas Prugger. Back in eighth place was another Canadian Ross Rebagliati.

Rebagliati had never won a major event, although he had once been on the podium. He was not short on confidence, though, and showed few signs of nerves.

After the second run was delayed for several hours by bad weather, Rebagliati came charging down the course, knowing he had little to lose.

He duly produced the best run of his life – smooth, precise and extremely fast – and the outcome was spectacular. Rebagliati was timed at 1 minute 4.09 seconds, comfortably faster than any of the other frontrunners, and he surged up the leaderboard from eighth to first place.Nobody was able to overtake him and he edged out Prugger by the tiny margin of 0.02 seconds to take the first ever Olympic snowboarding gold.

After the event, Rebagliati dedicated his victory to the memory of his friend Lumpy Leidal, who had been killed in an avalanche just over a month earlier.

He subsequently set up his own snowboarding school and became snowboarding director at a ski resort.