Jacobellis was the biggest name in the ladies' snowboard cross field in Sochi Sunday, and she came into her semifinal race with the weight of unmet expectations from two previous Olympics on her shoulders.
The 28-year-old, widely considered the best athlete in her young sport with three World Championships and eight X Games gold medals under her belt, wiped out with a big lead in her semifinal race, knocking herself out of contention for a medal.
“People don’t understand how much pressure is put on her,” said Faye Gulini, her American teammate, who finished fourth. “It breaks my heart because I think it takes the fun out of it for her, just for this event. She loves the sport; she’s a phenomenal snowboarder. But it’s in her head, you know.”
Despite the disappointment, Jacobellis seemed to take her fall in stride.
“There’s worse things in life than not winning,” she said. "A lot worse. And of course it's very unfortunate that this didn't work out for me. I've trained very hard for this moment. It just doesn't come together for whoever knows what reason."
While Sochi marks the second time Jacobellis has failed to make her event's finals -- she missed a jump in Vancouver in 2010 and was disqualified -- it is her near miss in Turin that weighs the heaviest.
At just 20 years old, Jacobellis had a wide lead in the finals, seconds from taking gold. But on her last jump, she went for an extra trick, grabbing her board, and ended up falling. She recovered to earn silver.
On Sunday, Jacobellis had to face the indignity of competing in the so-called "Small Final" -- the race for seventh place.
"At that point," she said. "You don't even want to try."
She started slow, but leapt ahead, easily winning. And four years from now, in Pyeongchang, she could be right back in it.