KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Vic Wild, a native of White Salmon, Wash. won an Olympic gold medal for snowboarding on Wednesday, but not for the United States. He was competing for Russia.
The newly minted star in Russia and local hero in White Salmon is also part of a love story that bridged two continents and helped him win Olympic gold.
Vic Wild was born and raised in White Salmon, Washington. The American native captured the Olympic gold medal in parallel giant slalom; about 15 minutes earlier, his wife, Russia's Alena Zavarzina, won the bronze.
"For both of us to have success on the same day, it's truly incredible," Wild said. "I don't know how this happened."
It started five years ago while they were traveling in the same pack on the World Cup snowboard racing circuit. Vic, born and raised in White Salmon, Wash., competed for the United States. Alena, a native of Novosibirsk, rode for Russia.
"When I first met her, I knew something was a little different, so I was very careful with how our relationship went," Wild said. "Very, very, very careful."
Love bloomed. Zavarzina, the 2011 world champion, doesn't enjoy sharing every little detail.
"I'll tell them when I'm old, in my memoir," she said.
NBC Report: Wild leaves US to compete for Russia
Alpine is the only Olympic snowboarding discipline not in the Winter X Games, the sport’s annual showcase event. Sponsors are scant in the U.S. for alpine snowboarding athletes. Money is meager.
Wild was prepared to quit, dissatisfied not only with his results but also support and funding from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association [USSA]. He was also in search of a coach.
While staying in Moscow with Zavarzina, a Russian coach suggested that he switch countries.
The Russian Ministry of Sport said he had to win a Olympic medal or World Championship to gain Russian citizenship. So, Zavarzina and Wild got married instead.