"It was crazy and probably more stressful than today," he said. "I was so scared. Walking into one building and thinking to myself, 'Dude, you're way too far away to run.' I had to walk through. Best decision I ever made."
The gold-medal payoff came on a sun-soaked afternoon on the mountain where hundreds of Russian fans chanted "Mo-Lo-Detz, Mo-Lo-Detz" -- Russian for "Well Done" -- every time Wild and Zavarzina came down the hill and won, which was a lot.
"This is what he worked for,'' Zavarzina said. "He went so far, so far from his hometown and he did an amazing job. He had to switch countries, switch nationalities and accept something that some would never accept.''
Wild said the choice was easy: Russia wanted him. The United States did not.
"If I was still riding (for the United States), I'd be back home with some mediocre job doing something mediocre," he said. "That's not what I wanted to be. I wanted to be the best I could be. I'm so stoked to win for Russia."
He said he's not tying this victory to any message for the powers that run snowboarding in America. The U.S. has won a world-leading five snowboard medals at these Olympics, four of them in the halfpipe or slopestyle course and one in the more TV-friendly racing discipline of snowboardcross.
The country sent only one parallel giant slalom rider to the Olympics -- Justin Reiter, a longtime friend of Wild who finished 24th.
"People in the U.S. don't understand it, and if they don't understand it, they don't connect with it," said Wild's mother, Carol Wild-DeLano. "So, then, it's less TV coverage. The funding gets reduced. It tunnels into the ground eventually."
Maybe in America. Certainly not in Russia, where there could yet be more fun on the mountain.
In an effort to get more Europeans, and Russians, involved at the snowboard park, the International Olympic Committee added another version of this event -- the shorter parallel slalom -- to the program for this year.
The debut of that event is set for Saturday, and Zavarzina and Wild will be in those races, too.
"It's a beautiful sports story," said Svetlana Gladysheva, the former Alpine skier who is now the president of the Russian ski federation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.