She has been trying to overcome it since — not for herself, really, because she has moved on, quite spectacularly, if people would just pay attention more often than every four years. What she was trying to overcome was something ghostlier, something harder to catch and release, which is the nagging feeling that when huge numbers of people think of Lindsey Jacobellis, they see a blooper, not a champion.
She knew the questions were coming because she faced them in 2010, when she fell short again, and in 2014, when it happened a third time. Certainly, her reward for remaining atop her sport as the 2018 Winter Games approached was to be asked them all again.
The biggest difference this time, besides the experience and wisdom that come with four more years, is that Jacobellis has Shull. Their pairing was the idea of Peter Foley, the longtime United States snowboard cross head coach.
“She’s had a bad experience with the Olympics, and in a lot of ways she dreads the Olympics now,” Foley said. “It would be nice if she could feel better about it.”
Shull’s purpose is to see if a new mind-set can make the difference between gold and disappointment. And as much as it frustrates Jacobellis to be reminded of it all, internally she has embraced Shull’s unusual advice: Do not try to put 2006 out of your mind, because that is impossible. Even in the starting gate, even in a gold medal race, if the thoughts creep to the memory of a long-ago fall, not the gauzy vision of the medal stand, seize them.
“What you want athletes to do is say, ‘I’m afraid,’ ” Shull said. “Because they all are. And if they say it, they can use it. If they try to set it aside, it’s lurking around them, interrupting what they normally know how to do.”
It is the opposite of what many sports psychologists and coaches preach, which is to clear the mind and think only positive thoughts. To Shull, to pretend that negativity…