KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Explaining the conditions on the mountainside Wednesday at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park caused a deflated Justin Reiter to reach into the movie vault.
Reiter, who qualified for his first Winter Olympics after injuries derailed attempts in 2006 and '10, was surprised by the rock-hard, slick conditions that led to a 24th-place finish in snowboard's giant parallel slalom.
"Ever seen the movie 'Bambi'?" he said. "Ever watch Bambi on ice? That's that."
The image of the cartoon deer's legs, splayed in four directions, provided the most apt explanation of the hillside for Reiter, whose two-run time of 1 minute, 41.25 seconds ended up 1.49 seconds away from the 16th and final spot to advance.
"The conditions weren't in my favor today," said Reiter, 33, of Steamboat Springs, Colo. "I wasn't prepared for it. I kind of prepared for something a little bit softer, based on the weather. Still, no excuse. I needed to be ready for it. Unfortunately, just couldn't execute."
Snow that arrived the night before competition led Reiter to believe the boarding surface would be softer.
The result proved exactly opposite.
"It was harder than what everyone expected, in terms of texture," he said. "I had underestimated how many chemicals they put into the snow and that it would harden like that."
Reiter tried to adjust to the hill, but ran into trouble on the fourth gate.
"I got stuck on the heel-side edge there, got a little bit twisted up and couldn't make up the difference," he said.
A chance at Olympic snowboard redemption comes Saturday, when Reiter is scheduled to compete in slalom, the event that produced his World Cup silver medal last year in Canada.
"I do believe I can win a medal and, thankfully, I have another event that's coming up," he said. "Most people think I'm a better slalom writer. I have a lot of good results there, a silver at world championships."
Reiter said he will do more homework on the course when race day arrives, but lamented how conditions impacted his run and others.
"I really hope organizers take better care of the snow and actually give us something that we can showcase our sport on," he said, "because it is a beautiful sport provided that we're at a venue that allows us to do what we want to do. It was pretty brutal."
The commitment to reach the Olympics in a snowboard discipline that saw its funding support slashed in 2011 caused Reiter to live in his Toyota Tundra pickup truck to save money. He told a Salt Lake City television station that he even parked and stayed in a Walmart lot for a time.
When asked afterward about the sacrifices he has made to reach this moment, he paused to gather himself for 15 seconds as his eyes moistened.
"Becoming an Olympian was a big goal ... earning a medal, huge goal," said Reiter, in clipped sentences. "But performing to my ability, I didn't do that today."
Bryce Miller writes for the Des Moines Register.