KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — For the last decade, Lindsey Jacobellis has been the most consistent snowboarder in a sport that does not lend itself to consistency.
She’s missing one thing, and anyone who tunes in to watch her once every four years knows exactly what that is.
The Olympic gold medal.
The 28-year-old from Stratton Mountain, Vt., gave it away in Italy, then lost her chance at it in a more traditional fashion in Vancouver, when she ran off the course in a semifinal race.
She gets her third chance Sunday when the women take to the course for the Olympic bump-and-grind of snowboardcross. Riders will race six wide through a series of heats — that’s two more per heat than at the last Olympics — as they narrow the field to a final race, where the six women left will go for gold, silver and bronze.
‘‘It’s not defining who I am,’’ Jacobellis said. ‘‘Of course, people are going to have their own opinion on it. I'll try my best and that’s when I have to be focused on what I'm doing, and hopefully it'll work out. Hopefully, it'll just be that percentage that it’s my time to win.’’
The percentages have usually worked out in her favor. Including last month’s victory, she has eight Winter X Games titles to go with 26 World Cup victories and three world championships.
When Jacobellis made her Olympic debut along with her sport in 2006, she was the favorite and, yes, the best racer throughout the entire sun-splashed day on the mountain in Bardonecchia, Italy. Far ahead of the field, cruising in for the gold medal, she tried a celebratory backside method grab of her board on the second-to-last jump. She went tumbling. Tanja Frieden passed her and Jacobellis skulked away with a silver medal.
‘‘I was having fun,’’ she said that day. ‘‘Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens.’’
Eight years later, she makes no apologies for the moment that has stuck with her, especially among those who don’t follow the sport on a regular basis — which is most everybody.
American Nate Holland, also searching for his first Olympic victory in three tries, says not to mistake her reluctance to dwell on the past with indifference toward her goal this week.
‘‘I know there are motivating factors,’’ Holland said. ‘‘There’s a lot of pressure on her to do well. In my opinion, she’s the best woman boardercrosser in the world and has been for years. If she doesn’t do well, it’s easy to take a pop shot at her and knock her down a little bit. Do I think that’s a motivating factor? Racing not to fail is always a motivating factor when you’re expected to win.’’
But Jacobellis insists she can accept the result, no matter what it is.
A knee ligament she shredded in 2012, and the two operations she needed to get it corrected, have reminded her of how lucky she is to ride a snowboard for a living. It brought the fun back into what had become an almost joyless pursuit of winning.
‘‘I felt untouchable and I felt I should always win and that’s not something that is feasible and that’s what got me in trouble,’’ she said. ‘‘Did it cause an issue with my knee? I don’t know. But coming back through my injury and working through it for over two years made me feel I earned the right to win again.’’