U.P. snowboarder focused on medal at Sochi Olympics

IRON RIVER – Nick Baumgartner has experienced the Olympics before, but this time around, he wants to bring home a medal.

Baumgartner of Iron River, making the U.S. Olympic Snowboardcross team for the second time, received a spirited and patriotic send-off from fans, friends and family during a Friday morning pep rally at a packed West Iron County High School gym.

“Going into it this time, I have a little different agenda,” Baumgartner said. “This time I’m going to be 100-percent focused, know what I am there for, and bring home some hardware.”

A few weeks ago, Baumgartner wasn’t even assured a spot on the team, but was notified at last weekend’s Winter X Games that he’d received the final discretionary spot.

“I was stressed out for a couple of weeks because they wouldn’t tell me,” he said. “Then finding out about it was pretty awesome.”

Baumgartner’s first Olympics ended with a spill in his elimination heat.

But he went on to claim Gold in the X Games the following year with an inspirational run in front of his son Landon. Three top-10 finishes in World Cup competition this season helped land his Olympic berth.

“I like my odds very much,” he said of heading to Sochi, Russia. “There’s some really good riders out there, but I’ve put in just as much work as they have, and I want it as much as anyone out there.”

While Baumgartner’s Olympic plan calls for precision focus, he also plans to have a good time while he is there.

“If I get too worried about what I need to do and winning, I’m not going to have fun,” he said. “And when I don’t have fun, I don’t ride as well as I do. So, I am going to go there and enjoy the experience, but I’m going to stay really focussed on what I am there for.

“I want to medal. I want to bring it back here.”