Snowboarder Vic Wild took home two gold medals in Sochi this week. The native of Wild Salmon, Washington, completed a historic sweep of the Olympic snowboard parallel slalom Saturday — only he did it for Russia rather than Team USA.
American by birth, Russian by marriage and by choice, Wild swept both events to give his adopted country a boost in the medals count.
Had Wild competed here for the United States, the 27-year-old would have been the most successful American athlete at these Olympics.
Wild edged Zan Kosir of Slovenia by 0.11 seconds in Saturday's parallel slalom final to win his second gold medal of the games.
The victory capped a remarkable four days for Wild, who is married to Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina and earlier won gold in parallel giant slalom.
Wild’s Wednesday triumph might have meant more since he took home his first gold medal just minutes after his Russian wife won a bronze.
"He deserves it, he's worked so hard," said Zavarzina. "He's so far from his home town and he had to switch countries.
"He has to deal with the Russian mentality, with stuff he's not used to, working with people who don't understand him most of the time," she said. "I'm very happy. I'm going to cry right now."
The two snowboarding friends became romantically involved in 2009 before getting married nearly three years ago. Wild saw it as a chance not only to be with the woman he loves, but also to become a member of a supportive Russian snowboarding team looking to win big in Sochi.
Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of funding from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, Wild moved to Moscow and has blossomed after switching nationalities.
"Russia is the country that's given me the opportunity to win a medal. If I was still riding for the USA, I'd be back home with perhaps some mediocre job doing something mediocre," Wild said after winning his first gold medal earlier this week.