Regino Hernández has won the bronze medal in snowboard cross at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, making him the third Spaniard to ever win a medal at the event and the first to win in snowboard cross. The last time a Spaniard made it to the podium was 26 years ago when Blanca Fernández Ochoa won bronze in slalom at the Albertville Winter Olympic games in 1992.
Hernández survived a tough day of falls, typical in a sport in which five or six riders race down a course filled with jumps, berms and drops at around 90 kilometers per hour. He warned before traveling to South Korea: it is a race in which you can’t control more than 20% of what happens. But as a one-time freestyle snowboarder, Hernández had an advantage on the slope at Pyeongchang, which began with a four-meter drop and included many falls and rises.
Of the three Spanish snowboarders, Hernández was the least likely to win. The 26-year-old from Ceuta was expected to be overshadowed by Lucas Eguibar, who was a runner-up in last year’s World Cup. At this same event, the two competed together in the team category to win silver for Spain.
But from the start of the Olympic competition Hernández performed well, scoring the third-fastest time on the qualifying round. A good time in snowboard cross means athletes can avoid competing against tougher rivals at the earlier stage where there are five riders racing. Eguibar was forced to compete in a second heat after scoring the 26th best time.
Hernández is the only Spaniard to ever win a medal in snowboard cross
In the final heat, Eguibar and Herrero went head to head, with the former failing to pass by one of the jumps.
Hernández was the only Spaniard to make it past the heats after beating US snowboarder Jonathan Cheever in a tight race for third place. The Malaga-raised athlete won his semifinal after a series of crashes took out his competitors. In the battle for the podium, Hernández kept hold of bronze and at one moment was close to winning silver but was beaten by Australian Jarryd Huges. France’s Pierre Vaultier won gold for the second time, one of only two snowboarders to win back-to-back gold medals in the event.
Having bagged the bronze, Hernández pointed to the sky with his finger. A few days earlier, he said that if he won any medal it would be thanks to Israel Planas, a coach of the Spanish team who died last year at age 41. Planas helped strengthened Hernández’s character, providing discipline inspired from his experience in martial arts – an ideal training for a sport in which motivation and concentration are key to protecting yourself. Hernández showed this in the semifinals as the only snowboarder to cross the finish line unscathed.
English version by Melissa Kitson.