Seth Wescott is preparing to compete in the upcoming X Games, still not knowing if he will be part of the U.S. snowboard cross team in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Wescott is the two-time Olympic gold medal champion in snowboard cross, but has failed to meet the qualifying criteria for the Sochi Games, which officially open Feb. 7.
The U.S. can send up to four snowboard cross racers to the Olympics. Three – Trevor Jacob, Alex Deibold and Nate Holland – have already achieved the selection criteria with a top-four finish in one of the World Cup qualifying races.
Wescott, who lives in Carrabassett Valley, missed the first two races while recovering from a knee injury suffered last April when he fell into a crevasse in Alaska while filming a Warren Miller movie. He finished 49th and 31st in two races. The fifth race was canceled.
The final berth on the team likely will be a coach’s decision and Wescott said Thursday he has no idea what will happen.
“I have not heard anything,’’ he said. “My impression is that they want to wait until after the X Games if they can.’’
Tricia Byrnes, the media contact for U.S. Snowboarding, said no timeline has been set to determine the final berth. “There’s not much to share right now,’’ she said.
The team has until Jan. 22 to let the U.S. Olympic Committee know how many snowboard cross racers it will take to Sochi, but doesn’t have to name them.
The X Games will be held Jan. 23-26 in Aspen. Colo., with the snowboard cross race Jan. 24.
Based on the qualifying races, Nick Baumgartner holds the fourth spot on the U.S. team. But given Wescott’s Olympic history – he is the only person to win gold in the event – it is possible he could earn the discretionary choice for the final slot.
Wescott hopes the coaches take that history into consideration, as well as the fact that he is still recovering from a complete reconstruction of his left knee and would have another three weeks of recovery before the Olympics, when making their decision.
While he said he felt he showed progress in his two World Cup races, Wescott added that a good showing at the X Games would help his case.
“It would be good for them to see I was healthy and ready to go and progressing,’’ he said.
Wescott has been on the podium in previous X Games but has never won the event.
“Statistically speaking, I’m due,’’ he said. “It should be a fun event, with maybe a little more riding on it this time. I love that track in Aspen. It’s going to be a fun race.’’
While he had hoped for better results in the World Cup races in Andorra, Wescott said he proved to himself that his knee is sound, without a fear of reinjury.
“It took a lot of doubt and worrying out of what I was worrying about,’’ he said.
“Now it’s a matter of getting back to full speed.’’
And, he said, he’s willing to accept whatever decision is made.
“It would be nice to be part of (the Olympics),’’ said Wescott. “But my life would be a lot less stressful if I’m not. I’ve known since April 24, when I went under the knife, that this was going to be a tough timeline, but that it was also not the end of the line for me.
“Seeing Shaun Palmer come out and throw down a qualifying run at 45 after being out for four years was really inspiring.
“So, of course you want to have the opportunity to be there. But by the same token, if I’m not 100 percent ready, I don’t want to take it away from someone who has worked for it for four years. I think I’m almost there.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: