This past month, Lindsey Jacobellis released a book chronicling her life and career entitled Unforgiving: Lessons From the Fall. While snowboarding media rarely talks about boardercross despite the fact that it is most definitely one of the gnarliest things you can do on a snowboard (careening as fast as you can down a purposely rowdy race course with four or five other people, up to twelve knife-sharp edges, and a high probability of collision–not to mention the metaphorical razor’s edge that separates the winners from those who took a turn with just a little too much mustard and spun off course), Lindsey is one of the most high profile–and winningest–snowboarders that there ever has been.
Of course, notoriety has its ups and downs and in Lindsey’s case, it was a hell of a personal challenge broadcast to the world from the 2006 Torino Olympics that kickstarted her mainstream fame. So now, nearly twenty years later and with redemption draped around her neck not once, but twice, at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, Lindsey’s foray into publishing is hard-earned and inspiring–and with a title that is about as good as it gets.
(No matter if you’re naming a book, business, or pet fish, coming up with that defining aspect of something is effing hard. We imagine there’s some feeling of consequence when it comes down to titling your entire life’s work thus far, too.)
“Lessons From the Fall” is so on the nose and at once self-effacing, literally and metaphorically; it’s downright sick to see someone not only acknowledge the event in their life that faced the most public scrutiny, but completely own it. Takes the ol’ power away, really. And isn’t that what we’re all supposed to do when dealing with those things we would prefer not to?
Leading up to the book, in February 2022 at her fifth Olympics, Lindsey realized the goal that had eclipsed her at previous Games and won two gold medals–the first in individual boardercross and the second in mixed teams boardercross with Nick Baumgartner. (Worth noting, Baumgartner was 40 when he got this gold, his first. Prime example of never giving up on what you’re working for.)
Sixteen years after a fall caused a gold to slip away–and garnered the sort of critical media attention that could make anyone want to hide from spotlight for years–Lindsey’s redemption story is complete. Earlier this week the New England native was on the Today Show promoting Unforgiving. Of course, they played the clip from Italy.
At the time, in 2006, the fall seemed so catastrophic and Lindsey received so much flack for it. But looking back at the footage now–isn’t the kind of unbridled excitement that would lead someone to want to kick out a method on the final jump of a timed race the sort of thing that makes snowboarding…snowboarding? Has anything like this ever happened in alpine skiing? Probably not. [editor’s note: We wouldn’t know it if it did.]
Lindsey tried big and in a sense, she failed big if you only judge things by who stands on the very top of the podium. And yes, that is the way that races like boardercross do things, but thinking a bit bigger, snowboarding has always had a knack for celebrating contest wins and both non- and anti-contest “wins”; it’s a duality that makes the sport, the art, the pasttime–whatever you want to call it–something really quite special. And in that 2006 race, Lindsey still got a GD silver medal. And since then, she has wracked up gold after gold at World Cup races every year since.
She got excited, she tried something, she fell. That moment of excitement, when you throw caution to the wind–even if you’re at the Olympics in a timed race–is one of the really nice parts of snowboarding. The fact that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, really. [editor’s note: Don’t jump on this with examples when you can’t do whatever you want–there are plenty. This is a conceptual idea, not a hard and fast rule for all situations.]
But the experience shaped her, which she deserves all the credit for. It’s hard to battle through the public eye and she did it.
It’s sick that Lindsey won double gold in Beijing. Boardercross is gnarly. Hanging your hat on the wild and unexpected that can come about in a single race is gnarly and impressive if that is what makes you happy. That’s stressful. Much respect to the competitors.
“Failure is important and growing is important, especially when you’re working through injuries,” says Lindsey in the Today Show segment. “Those challenging moments, it’s when you learn the most about yourself.”