Pyeongchang, South Korea — Nick Baumgartner did not get the Olympic medal he was hoping for, though he came close. Were it not for a slow start and too much speed off a jump, this story might have had a different ending.
But Baumgartner, a 36-year-old snowboarder from Iron River, isn’t upset over the near-medal finish in snowboard cross, because his participation in the Olympics means more than a medal.
“I’m 36 years old and to be here representing the U.S., my hometown back in the (Upper Peninsula), my family, man, I’m on top of the world,” Baumgartner said after the Big Final race.
And his friends and family were there and proud of what Baumgartner accomplished, even as the oldest, or rather, more experienced competitor in the snowboard cross event. But no one was prouder of Nick Baumgartner than his son, Landon, 13.
“I think he is pretty awesome,” Landon Baumgartner said.
Landon helped his dad walk through the media zone, as everyone wanted to talk to the energetic and youthful Iron River native. Nick hurt his leg during the Big Final when he carried too deep into a landing and took a spill.
That special bond between father and son was apparent between Nick and Landon, as they both fielded questions from the media. And as long as Nick made his son proud, well, that was worth more than any medal he could have received in Pyeongchang.
After crossing the finish line and taking a breather, Baumgartner was only looking for one person: Landon.
“I stood up and I looked for him immediately,” Baumgartner said. “I could see on his face he wasn’t disappointed at all, so how could I be disappointed if my son is stoked at his dad?”
And while Landon was supporting his dad from the stands, and literally holding him up as he walked, Baumgartner could feel that there was even more support from halfway across the globe.
“Being from a small community everyone rallies behind you,” he said. “To know that I’m representing that kind of people, it’s pretty rad.”
That small town of Iron River might not seem like a hotbed for Olympic athletes, and Baumgartner knows that. But he also has a message to anyone that thinks the size of their town defines how successful they will be in life.
“If you don’t think you can do anything from where you’re from… you got to me kidding me,” Baumgartner said. “You can do anything you want to do.”
Now that Nick’s run in this Olympics is over, he is going to take the time to give Landon the full Olympic experience. He plans to introduce his son to other athletes and really grasp what the Olympic spirit is.
So, what’s next for Nick as he still seeks that cherished Olympic medal?
“I’ll be here in four years, absolutely,” Nick said. “I’m still hunting for one of those medals. This is my third games, if I gotta go until I’m a hundred to get a medal, I’m gonna keep doing it.”
Josh Shelton is a freelance writer.