Nate Holland's unprecedented winning streak had to end sometime, but nobody expected a construction worker with a broken collarbone to be the one who ended it.
That's what happened in Saturday's Snowboarder X final, as veteran Nick Baumgartner overcame 15 screws and a plate in his neck to win his first medal in seven tries. Baumgartner broke the bone while training at Copper Mountain 13 days ago, after not being selected to compete at the World Championships. He underwent surgery the next morning and though he said the pain wasn't too bad Saturday, he had to get someone else to pull his jersey off.
When he won, he grabbed his 6-year-old son, Landon, and hoisted him into the air. "To see the look on his face, to have your boy proud of you, there's nothing better," Baumgartner said.
Holland took bronze, then was involved in a confrontation with reigning World Cup champion Pierre Vaultier in the finish corral. Vaultier shouted: "That's not racing!" and gestured as if Holland had pushed him while on course. Holland stuck his middle finger up at Vaultier and yelled back, "Watch the film!" The two then stood nose to nose before walking away.
Canada's Kevin Hill took silver, the best result of his career, but the day belonged to the man Holland calls a "freight train."
"I was hungry for this," said Baumgartner, 29, a 205-pound former college linebacker from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. "I came out to Colorado two weeks early because I didn't get picked for the World Championship team, but that gave me more time to train for this. Unfortunately that's when I broke my collarbone, but it almost got me in the right mindset, because I wasn't worried about getting out there and killing everyone. I just wanted to have fun and stay upright."
As for Holland, he still beat his longtime rival Seth Wescott by one place, but he looked slower on the flats and never had a chance to make a move for the win. "There wasn't anything different," he said. "I stepped in the gate, and if you would've asked me up there, I would've been like, yeah I'm going to win this."
He added: "It is kind of bittersweet, but I can't complain. I had an amazing streak of five in a row, and I'm on the podium today. I'm definitely proud to be up here."