KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Alex Deibold was wearing an American flag as a shawl Tuesday. Later, he would have a bronze medal draped upon his shoulders.
All the 27-year-old from Manchester, Vt., wanted to be was an Olympian and to ride a snowboard instead of, as he had for the U.S. team at the 2010 Vancouver Games, wax a snowboard.
He had outdone that grand ambition at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park by becoming a medalist in snowboard cross.
"It was really hard to sit back and enjoy something that I wanted so badly," Deibold said of having not been chosen for the 2010 team but then working as a wax technician. "I used that as motivation over the last four years to work hard."
His diligence bore dividends that, in his sport's typical fashion, included some drama along the way.
Deibold competed in four races in succession, as the field was culled in rainy conditions that made it more unpredictable than usual.
In the semifinals, he and U.S. teammate Trevor Jacob made airborne side-by-side contact on one jump and then slid almost simultaneously across the finish line later. A photo finish revealed Deibold had made up some late ground to edge out Jacob for the last spot in the final, and both laughed about it later.
"The end was pretty exciting," Jacob said. "I just kind of forgot to do a move off the jump and took it like 150 feet to the bottom and he passed, so it was cool. He got me. I'm so happy for Alex. He deserves it. He works really hard."
In the final, Deibold passed France's Paul-Henri De Le Rue on one of the final bends to secure third place behind gold-medal winner Pierre Vaultier of France and runner-up Nikolay Olyunin of Russia.
Deibold, who now lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., had won his first World Cup snowboard cross medal, a silver, here a year ago in his 31st race.
"It's just really cool," U.S. coach Mike Jankowski said of Deibold's medal-winning effort. "I feel like today he really rode his best. There's nothing to be regretful about, like every run he was really being aggressive, riding every section really well and it paid off.''
As for the wild semifinal, "That was awesome," Jankowski said. "Alex is giving Trevor a shot in the crotch, and Trevor is pushing off him. None of that is, like, aggressive. They're just trying to hold themselves up. And then that finish!"
Since 2010, Deibold had broken his hand and separated his shoulder, each requiring surgery and threatening his Olympic quest. He admitted to having doubts, all of which seemed far away Tuesday.
He is 13th in the 2014 World Cup rankings, with six top-10 finishes helping him earn an Olympic spot, after being 12th in 2013 and 27th in 2012.
"All I wanted was to focus on was my own snowboarding," he said of his race-day strategy. "Boarder cross, the fastest guy doesn't always necessarily win. You saw today that a lot of guys that were out front crashed, got tangled up, you can run into people.
"All that I could focus on was my own snowboarding and it paid off. When I was in that gate in that final, I wasn't thinking about the podium at all. I just thought about the hard work that I'd put in and what I had to do to get to that finish line."
As it turned out, that wasn't Deibold's last stop, as he booked a ticket to the medals podium, which seemed a remote destination four years ago. The man he worked for then, Andy Buckley, handled Deibold's eight different boards Tuesday and helped him select the right one based on conditions.
"It was a pretty grueling experience," he said of the tech work, which involved applying and removing board wax, "but it was definitely one that I was grateful for."