CARRABASSETT VALLEY – It’s a sunny and mild March day, the kind when nobody minds standing around outside. And hundreds of people are waiting on the Beach, the brick patio of Sugarloaf’s base lodge. Hundreds more are waiting on the snow, just off the base of the mountain.

They are waiting for Seth Wescott, two-time Olympic snowboardcross gold medalist, Carrabassett Valley resident and, currently, one of the most recognized people in Maine.

That’s apparent as the cheers grow louder when Wescott rides down the mountain on his snowboard, accompanied by a few hundred children. In his Team USA uniform, Wescott takes easy turns. It’s a relaxing run.

“In my heart, when I go out there on that stage, I’m representing for the state of Maine,” he told the crowd Saturday. “It’s a lot closer to your heart when you know who you’re doing it for.”

There was no need for Gov. John Baldacci to officially proclaim March 6, 2010, as Seth Wescott Day. Every day has been Seth Wescott Day since he won his second gold medal on Feb. 15.

Wescott’s time hasn’t been his own since. The day after winning, he was up before 3 a.m. to appear on the “Today” show. Fatigue is a small price to pay for winning a gold medal.

“The first few days were pretty brutal. I actually went 48 hours without getting a meal,” Wescott says. “I’d go to bed, and I’d be up 45 minutes later going, ‘Hey! I won the Olympics!’“

In 2006, Wescott was the favorite. He was coming off a world championship in 2005. He was 29, and the face of this new sport.

Heading into Vancouver, Wescott, now 33, was the underdog, an aging athlete coming off a series of injuries, including a broken wrist in 2007 and a leg injury just a few months before the Olympics.

“For me personally, this victory was a lot more meaningful. I was wondering in the whole rehab process, how’s it going to be?” Wescott said. “It meant a lot to me in ’09 to win a World Cup and feel like I was building momentum.”

Wescott thinks his sport is gaining momentum, too, especially with the addition of ski cross to the Olympics this year. More courses are being built, he says. Fewer riders will gravitate to the freestyle events now that athletes such as Shaun White have made the tricks so difficult. In the coming weeks, Wescott will travel the country promoting snowboardcross.

“We have a greater opportunity to grow the cross-type sports,” Wescott says.

Snowboardcross is built on a foundation of professional admiration. When Wescott crossed the finish line in first place in the Olympic final, his USA teammate Graham Watanabe, knocked out in an earlier round, went nuts with excitement. German rider David Speiser was one of the first people to give Wescott a hug after the win.

French rider Xavier De Le Rue, one of Wescott’s best friends, took Wescott aside before the finals and offered encouragement.

“He said, ‘You own this. You need to go do this right now,’” Wescott said. “National barriers are completely broken down.”

Wescott knows the crowd is waiting, and he appreciates it.

In 1991, when he went to the U.S. Open at Stratton, Vt., for the first time, a few of the big-name riders refused autograph requests from kids. That stuck with him. Why be that way? Give the autograph. Do something that might motivate the kid. Grow the sport.

Saturday, Wescott faced a stack of posters thicker than the New York City phone book, waiting for him to sign his name, over and over again. Young or old, skier or snowboarder, they get their autograph on posters, helmets and jackets.

“I’ll probably have carpal tunnel by the end of it, but I’ll try and get to all of you,” he said.

Maine loves Wescott, and he loves Maine.

“For me, it’s always been, I don’t want to change my home. I’ve got friends from fifth, sixth, seventh grade I still hang out with,” Wescott says. “I’ve felt more at home here than anywhere in the world.”

This celebratory train will slow down and stop sometime this fall, and Wescott will turn his attention first to the 2011 world championships in January, then to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“It’s time to buckle down, train harder and get ready for the three-peat at Sochi,” he said.

We’ll be waiting.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.