RENO, Nev. Surprisingly few people seemed to notice J.R. Salzman when he stalked away from the Log Rolling pond and to his tent, considering that his gold medal in the event had just been overturned in a crushing turn of fortune.
The two-time ESPN Great Outdoor Games Log Rolling gold medalist had just won a dramatic finals round against Jamie Fischer in a lather of white water and pinwheeling arms. Piranhas could have been devouring a mule in that water.
|J.R. Salzman, left, toes the foul line as Jamie Fischer takes a plunge. But it was Salzman who was all wet after being disqualified.|
Then replays showed that his foot had touched the center line about one-half of one second before Fischer hit the drink. That's a fault, as good as falling.
Fischer took gold. Salzman took off across a field, then took out his frustration on a chain-link fence behind a tree while the crowd and most of the assembled competitors cheered Fischer.
Salzman's big sister, Tina Bosworth, who had won her fourth Log Rolling gold a couple of hours earlier, took a towel out to her brother and coaxed him back just in time to receive his silver, beside Fischer and bronze-medalist Darren Hudson.
"I told him not to be a jackass and to be a good sportsman," she said of her goodwill mission.
Salzman stood on the podium, remaining expressionless for the cameras, then quickly removed his seventh Great Outdoor Games medal.
"I didn't even know I was that close to the center," Salzman said of the fatal fault. "Normally every log except the one log, the center lines and end lines are red. So you normally look for a red line. To not have that red standing out there is a complete change.
"I earned my two falls and so did he. For it to end like that is very sour for me."
Even victory was unsatisfying, according to Fischer.
"I'm looking forward to our next competition already," Fischer said. "It was a DQ, but in the same sense, I went in before he did."
The controversy was foreshadowed in Salzman's semifinal sweep of Dan McDonough, who saw that Salzman was crowding the line and backed off deliberately, trying to get Salzman to adjust unconsciously and therefore fault.
Salzman put the crafty 42-year-old into the water, but not before he stepped on the line, McDonough thought. He filed a formal protest. Replays appeared to show that Salzman just barely missed the center white stripe, and Salzman was awarded the fall.
The muddled final point also overshadowed a redemption of sorts for Fischer, who bombed in the first round of the 2002 Log Rolling event. Already a prodigious boom-runner, Fischer focused on his rolling before these games.
"To go out there and just get killed in the first round was embarrassing," he said. "So my drive this year was to show people that I can roll, like I'm supposed to."
Fischer blanked reigning gold medalist Hudson in the semifinals, two falls to none.
"He's very quick, from the boom run he's very powerful and he makes great recoveries," Hudson said.
The only competitor to pitch Fischer into the water, as a matter of fact, was Salzman. And the reverse was true, too. Salzman in fact had taken care to remain completely dry, not even dropping into the water after wins, up until his match with Fischer.
Only Salzman's mistake marred the matchup.
"The way I look at the whole situation is, why I do this, it's not like I really like to win," Salzman said. "I do, but I don't. I hate losing. I hate losing, especially with a loss like this.
"What a sour medal."
Final Results Men's Log Roll
1. Jamie Fischer, Stillwater, Minn.
2. J.R. Salzman, Hayward, Wis.
3. Darren Hudson, Barrington, Nova Scotia
4. Dan McDonough, Branson, Mo.
5. Travis Wells, Blaine, Minn.
5. Fred Scheer, Hayward, Wis.
5. Wade Stewart, Parksville, British Columbia
5. Brian Duffy, Hayward, Wis.