- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

Seth Wescott just laughs when asked if he’s just sandbagging.

The two-time Olympic goal medalist in men’s snowboardcross loves overcoming long odds - it’s kind of his thing - but trust him, the last two years haven’t been some sort of elaborate plot to simply up the stakes as he vies for a historic three-peat in Sochi.

A shoulder injury cut short his 2012 season. He tore the ACL in his left knee and broke his tibia while backcountry riding in Alaska in April and admits he’s barely halfway through the recovery period for a torn patella tendon.

And yet, as the weeks leading up to Sochi dwindle to mere days, the 37-year-old insists his comeback bid is legit.

“I hope I’m physically ready for February,” Wescott said. “I know that when I get to that stage there is something I can access on those days I can’t access on other days of my career. There’s a thrill to see if that’s still waiting for me.”

That sense of the moment hasn’t let him down yet.

Not in Turin eight years ago, when the former halfpipe specialist slipped by Radoslav Zidek in the first Olympic snowboardcross final to earn his first gold medal. Not in Vancouver in 2010, when he overcame a slow start to nip Canadian Mike Robertson by the length of a board.

The introspective Wescott can’t quite explain why he’s able to summon that little extra necessary to make history. He just knows it’s tucked away somewhere. Call it the byproduct of a lifetime in the mountains. And being an elder statesmen in a sport where few make it past their early 30s helps too.

Wescott has won. He has lost. He has been flawless and flamed out on the same weekend. He rides with a fearlessness that comes with being comfortable in your own skin and a focus that prevents outside forces overwhelming him on the biggest stages.

“I can drink the pressure in and it feels phenomenal,” Wescott said. “I want to have that experience and it brings on that extra level of meaning. I don’t know, it always seems like in my career the more things I have to juggle, the better the athletic performances become.”

A dedicated environmentalist, Wescott isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He made pointed remarks about Russia’s anti-gay stance last fall and isn’t exactly backing away from them despite the threat of a backlash if he makes it to Sochi.

“I have lesbian teammates, they’re wonderful,” he said. “I wish the IOC would take into consideration if you’re going to award the Olympics to someone, it should be a society that doesn’t discriminate against people who participate in the Olympics.”

He Is just as passionate about climate change. He shakes his head at the impact it has had on the mountains and believes his sport needs to find a more efficient way to do business. Setting up a snowboardcross course is expensive and dirty work. Those mounds of snow don’t just magically fall into place. They’re packed in by machines, ones that burn tons of fuel.

Wescott is intent on helping find a better way, though he has no intentions of throwing his snowpants and goggles into a closet and becoming an adviser. He sees no reason he can’t continue to do this well into his 40s, becoming for snowboardcross what Kelly Slater has become for surfing. The 41-year-old Slater remains the class of his sport. There’s a sense of purpose deep within Wescott guiding him to do the same.

“I would love to be that guy in our discipline,” he said. “Just knowing myself and knowing my genetics … I know I have ability to have longevity in the sport as long as I’m progressing personally, getting better and getting faster.”

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