Iron River’s Baumgartner one and done in Sochi

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Former Northern Michigan University football player Nick Baumgartner of Iron River failed to make it out of the first round of men’s Olympic snowboardcross today.

Baumgartner, competing in his second Olympics at age 32, finished fourth out of five riders in the first heat of the first round with only the top three riders advancing to the quarterfinals.

During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Baumgartner finished 20th overall.

“I so badly wanted to do better today and make you all proud,” Baumgartner posted this morning on his Facebook page.

“I put so much work in and have so much passion for this sport and days like today can really test a competitor. I need to keep my head high and work even harder. I must learn from this and not let it hold me back no matter how tough it is. Thank you all so much once again. This journey has been a tough one, sorry if I disappointed any of you.”

Pierre Vaultier of France held off hard-charging Nikolay Olyunin of Russia to win gold.

Vaultier fended off several advances by Olyunin in the final, drawing clear over the final jumps to victory. The 26-year-old Vaultier won all four of his races in the midst of a steady drizzle that created plenty of the chaos – the signature of snowboarding’s answer to auto racing.

Alex Deibold of the U.S. grabbed bronze after narrowly edging teammate Trevor Jacob in the semifinals.

The event was pushed back a day due to heavy fog, with officials modifying the format to cancel the seedings run and go straight to the elimination rounds.

Conditions weren’t much better 24 hours later.

Tuesday’s drizzle slowed the course and made chunky and unpredictable snow. Several riders failed to finish due to crashes.

Deibold got up gamely for bronze, though not without a little bit of luck. He passed Jacob at the finish line in the semifinals, sliding across the tape on his rear just in front of Jacob – who struggled with the final landing and was on his backside as well.

A wax technician for Team USA in Vancouver four years ago, Deibold took advantage of the reprieve to salvage a medal for a country that had won gold in this event during its first two iterations in the games.

Deibold and Jacob fared better than their more experienced teammates.

Nate Holland of the U.S., a seven-time X Games winner in this event, didn’t make it out of the first round. He and Jacobs were well in front during their heat when Holland inexplicably lost his momentum after clearing one of the bigger jumps halfway down. He couldn’t regain speed and ended up fourth.

Baumgartner was a non-factor in his heat thanks to a board that didn’t have enough juice.

At least they have their health. A handful of riders did not after a series of spills that is the sport’s hallmark.

Italian rider Omar Visintin needed to be taken off on a stretcher after crashing in the semifinals, though he appeared to be communicating with medics as he was pulled away.

Cameron Bolton of Australia had lacerations on his face and needed a wrist to be taped up after washing out in the semifinals. He gamely tried to race in the consolation final but pulled up through his run.