MANCHESTER -- A little over a week ago, Manchester’s Alex Deibold stood atop the podium in the freezing rain at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia waiting to have the bronze medal for men’s snowboardcross hung around his neck.
The experience was the culmination of a nearly lifelong dream for Deibold who in an interview on Tuesday said the moment was one of the highlights of the Olympics for him.
"It was pouring rain at my medal ceremony. It was one of the only days that it rained the whole two weeks I was there and my teammates and my friends and my family and my coaches and everybody was standing in the pouring rain for I don’t even know how long to be out there and support me and it was a pretty cool moment," said Deibold. "On top of getting a medal and realizing all my dreams and hard work, to have those people that I care about so much stand around in the freezing rain and support me, there’s no way to put into words how much I appreciate it."
Once he crossed the finish line in the finals, Deibold - a member of the Olympic U.S. Snowboardcross B-Team - said he was filled with a range of emotions including, excitement, pride and to a degree disbelief. On Tuesday, he said that the fact that he had won the bronze medal still had not quite sunk in yet.
In the midst of all that emotion, Deibold said he experienced another highlight of the Games when he was met by several of his teammates moments after he crossed the finish line and they piled on top of him and later hoisted him onto their shoulders in celebration.
"That was a really cool moment for me. In boardercross, in snowboarding in general, you’re competing for yourself. You’re training as a team, but once you get in the gate it’s every man for himself and to have the support of guys I’ve battled against, for them to put their egos aside and just be that excited for me, I can’t even begin to tell you how much it meant," said Deibold. "Those guys are like brothers and we love each other and we fight and we butt heads, but for them to support me and be that genuinely excited for me is a feeling I’ll never forget. It was really pretty incredible."
Like many athletes, Deibold said the opening ceremonies - which was one of the things he said he was most looking forward to prior to the start of the Olympics - was a very special experience
"The moment that I walked in, the feeling of hearing the crowd as I walked up (from under the stadium), it was incredible. I couldn’t stop smiling," he said. "I was so happy. It was pretty surreal to look around and see how big and beautiful the stadium was and hear all the people and be part of Team USA and represent my country. It was definitely a proud moment."
When the races began, Deibold said there wasn’t really any added nerves given the magnitude of the event. He said once he got in the gate he was "pretty calm and focused."
"It was shocking to me. I was surprised. I thought about it after the fact. I was like ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t more nervous.’ But I guess it’s good," he said. "My game plan was to just focus on my snowboarding. Not think about the podium or final results or getting a medal or anything like that. I wanted to go out, focus on my snowboarding, and doing the best that I could and that really helped me stay calm the whole day."
Going into the Olympics Deibold said he tried to follow the advice that he had once heard U.S. teammate Seth Wescott once give to a couple of snowboarders at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Wescott told them that the Olympics was the easiest event of the year because there were fewer distractions since the athletes had everything else taken care of for them so they could focus entirely on racing.
"I think that it was good advice because it helped me stay focused on the little details and not get overwhelmed by the big picture," he said.
Deibold - who is originally from Branford, Conn. - moved to Manchester with his family full time in 2001. Prior to that though he had spent much of his childhood in Manchester due to the fact that both his aunt and uncle and his grandparents had ski houses in town.
"I’ve been going there my entire life. I spent a lot of my Christmases up there. We’d go up every single weekend as a child, ski weeks and we’d go up for fall foliage season. So, when my family moved up there full time it wasn’t really a foreign place," said Deibold. "I spent so much time there growing up that it didn’t feel like anything new."
Deibold attend Stratton Mountain School his last three years of high school, graduating in 2004. Following the news that he won the bronze medal last week, some members of the school said there was a lot of excitement around the school and they were very proud of his achievements.
"I think everybody at SMS is just so incredibly excited and proud for him," said Director of Communications at SMS Meredith Morin. "Just knowing that he had gone to the 2010 Olympics as a wax tech and when he talked to me before the Olympics he was just so excited to actually be able to go and compete and I think he’s probably the most grateful Olympic medalist there ever was. He gave it his best and he came home with hardware and I don’t think there’s anything better than that."
Alex Lehmann, the Academic Dean at Stratton Mountain School and Deibold’s former English teacher, remembers Deibold as being a very mature and focused young man who was a very nice person and was also very thoughtful and considerate of his teachers and peers. When Lehmann saw Deibold win the bronze on Tuesday, he said he experienced some strong emotions.
"It’s the kind of thing that we celebrate from a distance, but I know that there is an incredible amount of pride here and just a feeling of joy for Alex, for his success, because he’s been at it for a long time and he’s stayed focused and he’s stayed committed to this goal," Lehmann said. "So, I was so happy for Alex. It was truly sort of an emotional thing to see him finish third and then to watch him celebrate in such a sincere way because I know that’s who he is and I just couldn’t have been more psyched for him. His hard work paid off as he keeps saying."