WHITE SALMON, Wash -- Vic Wild, a snowboard racer who grew up in the tiny Columbia Gorge town of White Salmon, won the gold medal Wednesday, for Russia.
On Wednesday afternoon, no one in town seemed to care much which country he represented.
“It's amazing how fast the news traveled,” said Mike Church the principal of Henkle Middle School where Wild attended. He spent part of Wednesday afternoon changing the school’s reader board to say “Former White Salmon student here, now an Olympic gold medalist.”
Vic Wild won in the parallel giant slalom. In this small town of just 2,200 people, the news was electrifying.
“Nothing like that ever happens here. So it was pretty exciting for all of us for sure,” said a mom as she picked up her children from school.
Many who are parents here now here grew up with Wild. His former babysitter said he was a handful as a child.
“He was pretty hyper," said Rebecca Meinzer. "Pretty, wild I guess, ha!"
Inside the elementary school library, where Wild used to read, some one wrote Vic Wild Wins Gold on the big white board. His name is everywhere.
Wild joined the Russian team after marrying a top female snowboarder from Russia. He’d been frustrated with a lack of financial support for the U.S. Team.
NBC Report: Vic Wild leaves US to compete for Russia
But he’s still a hometown champion in White Salmon.
“I mean it was absolute pride,” said Christopher Cramer who played football with Wild at Columbia High.
Cramer now teaches at the middle school. He is already using the Olympian’s story to remind his students there are no limits to what they can do if someone works hard.
“A classmate of mine is in the Olympics," he said. "This is for real and you can watch how he does!”
NBC Report: Expat Vic Wild, wife storm parallel giant slalom podiums for Russia
It already resonates with parents in town.
“I have the same aspirations for my son," said a woman at the elementary school as she held her little boy’s hand. “ Maybe he can do something big like that. It gives a lot of hope for us."
The small town kid now stands at the top of the world’s biggest stage and his hometown has not forgotten him.
“I know he is representing us all," said Columbia High School Assistant Principal Janet McCutcheon. "Where ever he lives. And whatever country he’s in. Our hearts are with him.”