Mike Robertson lost his relative anonymity Monday. The calm, soft-spoken Canadian captured silver in the men's Olympic snowboardcross event at Cypress Mountain.
"I have no idea if anyone in Canada knows who I am, except for my family and friends," said the 24-year-old from Canmore, Alta. "I'm sure now, I guess, a few more people will know the name. But I'm pretty low-key. I don't need that many fans."
Fellow Canuck rider Rob Fagan - who rooms with Robertson on the World Cup tour - said Robertson's cool, quiet demeanour helped him in his Olympic debut.
"Sadly, I sleep beside that guy more than anyone," joked Fagan, who placed fifth Monday. "He rocks. He's a very cool cat. He's just super mellow. You wonder if he's even remotely in the room. He stares up to his own little world and I think it works for this."
Robertson won silver at a World Cup event here last season, and he repeated that feat Monday. In the Olympic final, which featured four racers, Robertson took the lead out of the gate. He led most of the way until he came up short on a jump and lost valuable speed. That allowed American Seth Wescott, the defending Olympic champion, to surge past Robertson.
"I didn't know it was Wescott until I saw him beside me," said the Canadian. "Then I was just like, 'Awww, he's winning two golds.' "
Wescott said he could hear the pro-Canadian crowd of approximately 8,000 from halfway up the course.
"I think I felt them collectively get bummed out," Wescott said with a chuckle. "It is what it is. It was different in (Turin in 2006) to hear them kind of erupt a little more. It was maybe kind of the opposite emotion here."
Despite being the defending Olympic champ, Wescott ranks ninth in World Cup standings this season. He waited in the weeds and then pounced when other top contenders, such as World Cup leader Pierre Vaultier of France, failed to advance.
"It's hard for me to be super-motivated week in and week out on the World Cup," said Wescott. "I've just been at it too long. You need something like this or the X Games or the world championships to get motivated. That gives you a whole other level of energy."
Early in Monday's race, Robertson rode elbow to elbow with American Nate Holland, the five-time X Games champ who took a dig at Canada's Own the Podium program last week when he boasted that the Americans were going to "rent it for the month." Holland ultimately spun out, though, and placed fourth. France's Tony Ramoin captured bronze.
Robertson seemed poised to claim Canada's first Olympic snowboarding gold since Ross Rebagliati won the inaugural downhill event at the 1998 Nagano Games. Wescott, however, kept the Canadian in view and pounced on Robertson's mistake.
"I thought I had control; I thought I had a chance to win it," said Robertson. "But as soon as I came up short on that jump, I knew I was going to get passed."
Navigating a series of jumps, Robertson said he "landed on the upside of the next roller and lost a bunch of speed."
Fagan, meanwhile, was wiped out in the semifinals. The Cranbrook, B.C., native bounced back to win the consolation final and place fifth. North Vancouver's Drew Neilson was 11th, one spot ahead of Francois Boivin from Jonquiere, Que.
The women's snowboard cross hits Cypress today, with Canadians Maelle Ricker and Dominique Maltais both expected to contend for medals.