For those feeling sorry for Scotty Lago after he fell short in his quest to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, the 26-year-old Seabrook native will remind you that he spends his worst days on snowboard trails in some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
“We’re in a sport where we don’t need the Olympics to have a successful season,” Lago said. “Our careers aren’t dependent on it. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me at all. I gave it my all, and I said at the beginning I wouldn’t be bummed if I didn’t make it.”
Lago will not have a chance to match the highlight of his career so far — earning a bronze medal in the halfpipe at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although Lago was a successful professional snowboarder at the time of that achievement, his breakthrough performance in front of a worldwide audience on an Olympic stage took his popularity to new heights.
He has remained at or near the top of the sport for the last four years, earning podium finishes at several international events in 2013, including bronze at an Olympic test run in Sochi, Russia, last February.
Lago needed one more podium in the five Olympic qualifiers to be considered for the U.S. team, as his second-place finish in the fourth qualifier last Friday was his lone top-three result. He could not land his biggest trick at the final qualifier Sunday at Mammoth Mountain in California, leaving him on the outside of the Olympic picture.
“I couldn’t pull it off,” Lago said. “I knew I had to get first or second to solidify my spot, and I ended up falling. That happens. I’m bummed I couldn’t pull it off, but not that bummed. I’m excited to go out and start filming and doing other contests this year.”
On the surface, it’s difficult to imagine an athlete could burn out on the sport of snowboarding; the entire mentality of the sport seems to be to enjoy each day. However, Lago’s last four years have been focused on putting himself in the optimal position to be peaking at the time of the Sochi Games next month. The 10-year veteran professional snowboarder is looking forward to shifting his focus to activities that don’t involve spinning and flipping over a halfpipe and placing his self-worth in the hands of judges.
“For sure, I’m definitely at that point right now,” Lago said. “I hadn’t planned anything else. The only thing I really planned is to try for the Olympics. I’m really excited to open up my schedule. I’m going to start filming and doing photo shoots.”
Lago also plans to throw his hat in the ring at some different snowboarding competitions. For instance, he’ll compete in the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom Feb. 7 to 9 for the first time in his career.
“I’ll try my hand in that,” Lago said. “I’m really excited to go out to Washington for that.”
After spending a couple of days gambling in Reno, Nev., following the final Olympic qualifier, Lago flew to Aspen, Calif., Tuesday for the X Games. There, Lago will compete in the Superpipe for what he believes will be the final time this winter. At 26, it’s reasonable to wonder how many halfpipe contests Lago has left in his career.
“I totally think I could (stay in the sport until the next Olympics),” Lago said. “Whether or not I want to is a different story. Four years from now, I’m not sure if I’ll really want to. I’d like to transition my career toward the stuff I enjoy a little more.”
At the moment, that entails shooting snowboarding videos in the backcountry, hunting, mountain biking and traveling the world.