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Wescott comes from far back to win snowboardcross gold

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Six weeks ago, Seth Wescott couldn't walk.

Yesterday morning, he couldn't see.

Big problems? Not so much in the unwieldy, unpredictable sport of snowboard cross.

Wescott overcame long-term injury, a bad qualifying run and a massive deficit to Canada's Mike Robertson in the final yesterday to win his second straight Olympic gold medal - an amazing comeback for a rider who came to Vancouver feeling like an old man, not the defending champion.

"As you get older in this sport," he said, "you have to learn to pick and choose your days."

What a day it was for the 33-year-old veteran from Maine, who qualified 17th of the 32 riders after a skid-out that left him complaining he was essentially "riding blind" through the slushy snow and flat light of weather-plagued Cypress Mountain.

What he saw about a third of the way down the hill in the four-man final was no better.

His teammate Nate Holland spun out, turning it into a three-man race - but really less than that. Robertson emerged untouched from the wreck and was basically out of Wescott's shouting range.

Wescott, though, is a veteran and a tactician, who knew chances would come near the end of the course, so he bided his time and made up the gap.

He kept closing, then took the lead and held it. And it was the United States, not Canada, that ended up with its second gold of the Games, while Robertson settled for silver and France's Tony Ramoin took bronze.

"That kind of gap, most people - well, really, nobody, overcomes that," said America's snowboard coach Peter Foley.

Not bad for a guy who had doubts about whether he would even make it to the Games after he jammed his femur into his pelvis in a race in December.

"Had never had that kind of pain in my pelvis before, and it was hard to know exactly what was wrong with me," Wescott said. "All of January and the tour through Europe was pretty depressing for me. Just a lot of pain." Not so much, though, that he didn't at least think about victory.

He packed the neatly folded flag his father had given him for his celebration four years ago in Turin, gave it to a PR person for the U.S. Snowboarding team and asked her to have it handy at the finish just in case.

The flag, presented to Wescott's late grandfather years ago by the U.S. military, was draped around Seth's neck at the bottom of the hill.

"That was part of the motivation to get to this moment," Wescott said. "I brought it so if I got to this moment, I'd have it here."

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