Trevor Jacob, the next Shaun Palmer

"It'd been floating in my mind for a few years to really try boardercross, and here was the time to finally make it happen," Jacob says.

He told Jankowski he needed a change and asked if he would introduce him to the SBX coaches. Within three months, Jacob was training with the U.S. team at their summer camp in New Zealand.

"It was a perfect opportunity for him," says snowboardcross head coach Peter Foley. "We had a good training course, a small group and a race at the end. Some of the younger guys were upset we brought him to camp. He hadn't done anything in the sport. But they certainly can't talk now."

At that camp, Jacob was wild and rough around the edges and didn't fit in with everyone on the team. He had bleached hair, his last name tattooed across his back and he didn't talk much. When he did, he spoke filter-free. But his speed and talent were obvious.

In his riding, Foley saw a natural gliding ability he'd seen in only one other rider in his career: multisport legend Shaun Palmer, who attempted a comeback in snowboardcross in hopes of making the 2014 team. Jacob reminded several riders of Palmer, both in his natural ability and affinity for multiple action sports and his disregard for what others thought about him.

"To this day, Palmer is still the best flat-out glider in the world," Foley says. "Trevor also had that from the start."

At the end of camp, the then-18-year-old Jacob was beating some of the best men in the world in time trials and soaked in teammates' advice like a sponge. At practices, two-time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott gave him tips on pack racing, strategy and starts. Eight-time X Games gold medalist Lindsey Jacobellis helped him with his turns and bought him meat pies.

"Trevor has a lot of raw talent and takes instruction well," Jacobellis says. "In training, he was contending with our guys and making minimal mistakes. If you told him, 'You did this and that's what killed your speed,' he would immediately fix it and apply it to the next race. It was only a matter of time until those skills came together."

At the Continental Cup at the end of that 2012 camp, Jacob finished second and earned the FIS points he needed to enter a World Cup and begin his run toward Sochi. "The coaches decided to give me a discretionary spot in a race in Austria in December," Jacob says.

But in mid-November, he found himself back home in Mammoth Lakes and bored. He filled his days skating and riding BMX, and when he heard one of his childhood friends, pro skateboarder Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins, had married action sports icon Travis Pastrana, one of two athletes he grew up idolizing -- the other, not surprisingly, was Palmer -- he decided to send her a text.

"I said, 'Congrats, this is great,'" Jacob says. "And I said, 'You know I like to do all these sports, so if you ever need anybody on the Nitro Circus [an international action sports touring show headed by Pastrana], let me know.'"

What's that they say about luck existing at the intersection of opportunity and preparedness?

The next day, Lyn-Z texted back to say two athletes in the show had been injured and her husband was in desperate need of a replacement. "We need you tomorrow," she said. The next day was Thanksgiving, and Jacob was scheduled to leave for his race in Austria four days later.

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