Even without the bronze medal she won at the 2006 Winter Olympics, Girdwood snowboarder Rosey Fletcher boasts the resume of a champion, complete with World Championship medals, World Cup victories and national championships.
But it wasn’t until she claimed a medal on the world’s biggest sporting stage that her career was truly complete — especially because the Olympics had been so cruel to Fletcher on two previous occasions.
In 1998 at Nagano and in 2002 at Salt Lake City, Fletcher was considered a medal contender heading into the women’s alpine snowboarding race. But both times the favorite fizzled, her dreams shattered during preliminary action by a crash in 1998 and a near-crash in 2002.
The 2002 failure on the slopes of Utah’s Park City was particularly painful – Fletcher was ranked eighth in the world and she and many others believed she was poised for a podium finish. Instead, after she slid across the finish line with no hope of advancing, she found a quiet corner, sank to the ground, pulled her knees to her chest and buried her head in her hands as tears turned to sobs.
Fletcher was 30 years old and in the final season of her racing career by the time the Olympics came to Turin, Italy, in 2006. Though she was still riding strong, she was no longer a medal favorite.
With the pressure to win gone, she survived the preliminaries and advanced all the way to the semifinals before crashing, a setback that put her in the two-woman race for the bronze medal. She won it comfortably to grab the medal that eluded her twice before.
“My first two Olympics were just really devastating,” she told reporters after the race. “I was so devastated after Salt Lake I thought my life was going to end. It was one of those life lessons, realizing that life’s a lot bigger than this five-ring circus.”
True. But by finally finding success under those five rings, Fletcher found the perfect ending for a five-star career.
— Beth Bragg