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Snowboard champ realizes Olympic dream

Seth Wescott, reigning world champion in snowboard cross, talks to "Today" show host Matt Lauer about preparing for his first Winter Games.
/ Source: TODAY

The 2006 Winter Olympics welcomes a new sport to its lineup today —snowboard cross. SBX, as it is also called, is similar to BMX, but with snowboards on snow instead of bicycles on dirt. Seth Wescott, a 29-year-old snowboarder from Maine, campaigned to include this sport in the Olympics. And now the seven-time X-Games winner and current world champ is going for a gold medal. Wescott talked to “Today” host Matt Lauer about this unusual sport and how he mentally prepares to compete.

Matt Lauer: I talked to Seth before I left and asked him about how he's feeling going into these games as the reigning world champion.

Seth Wescott: It's a neat opportunity to step into my first Olympics experience in the position that I'm in, having all the confidence in the world and knowing that I can go in there. As the first time that I'm truly on the world stage, I get to represent the United States and to carry that pride into it. I know that I can go in there and accomplish great things.

Lauer: Talk to me about your mental state of mind and tell me a little bit about your physical state.

Wescott: My mental state of mind I think is good. The bigger event it is, the more I've thought about it, spent mental time preparing for it. And the Olympics is one of those things. 

And it's here at the Olympics where his sport, snowboard cross, is the newest addition. It's pretty simple: four boarders race to the bottom of the hill … winner takes all. But this wasn't always Seth's sport of choice. His first love was the half pipe, but he grew frustrated with the way it was scored … by a panel of judges, so it’s not unlike figure skating.  

Wescott: It was really frustrating because you would have days where you knew you rode well and didn't get scored good. And then there were days where you know that you didn't ride to your potential and you might have been standing on the podium.

Lauer: In other words, you don't want to go out there and try your best and have some judge say, Seth, you did well today or you didn't do well. At least in snowboard cross, you get down there first.Wescott: Right.

Lauer: And you're the one left standing, you're the winner?

Wescott: Yeah.

Winning is what's first in his mind as he steps into the starting gate.

Lauer: So take me to the top of the hill. You're in your first Olympic race. Mentally, what are you thinking a minute before the race? How do you prepare yourself? What do you visualize? What are you thinking about?

Wescott: The visualization part, I don't do so much in those last seconds. It’s knowing exactly what I have to do and knowing where I'm going to do it. And then it's just a matter of both exciting yourself, but also getting yourself relaxed. To be completely present and in that moment and ready for that five-second window when the gates drop and you start off on that quest.

Lauer: There are a few moments that I would imagine, and I don't care what sport you grow up in, that you have spent some time daydreaming about standing on the medal platform and hearing the national anthem.

Wescott: Yeah. Winning the world championships last year, watching the flag go up, but knowing that nobody was hearing [the national anthem]. Hopefully, that was a dress rehearsal.