It's not too hard to spot Lindsey Jacobellis on the slopes.
She's one of the world's top snowboarders, flying down frosty mountains, free and fast, twisting and flipping down the half-pipe and racing over obstacles in the snowboard cross. But in addition to her superhuman skills, she is known for the blonde ringlets that peek out the back of her helmet."It's me," Jacobellis says of her curls. "People know me by my hair. It's my trademark thing."
Jacobellis has become a snowboarding icon, as well as one of the world's most famous curly athletes.
She began snowboarding in rural Roxbury, Connecticut, when she was 10-years old."I didn't snowboard well right away," she says. "I got frustrated and put it away. I went back to skiing so I could keep up with the family."
But she decided to give it another try. Coached by her older brother, Ben, Lindsey was forced to compete against boys since there was no girls' division for the sport. This coed racing helped her develop a highly competitive spirit. Leading up to the Olympics, she trained with the American men since she is the only U.S. woman competing in snowboard cross. She made frequent trips to Vermont to train, eventually moved to Vermont to begin serious competitive training. She won her first prestigious event when she was 15."That's when I knew it was more than a hobby," she says.
She gained infamy at the 2006 Olympics where she attempted a grab during the final race and fell, losing her sizable lead and getting a silver medal instead of a gold. She says she went for the jump because she was having fun, and she wanted to share that with the crowd. Asked whether she will return to the 2010 Olympics, she said she takes it one year at a time."It's not something you can dwell on," she says. "It can really drive you crazy."
Jacobellis' Olympic accomplishments were noted by "Sports Illustrated."
Jacobellis has had curly hair since she can remember, but admits she wasn't always so comfortable with her ringlets."They were a pain -- a lot to manage for a little kid," she says. "If I wore braids, they turned into dreadlocks. I brushed my hair every night with conditioner."
Cutting it short gave the athletic kid much-needed freedom. By high school, it had grown long, making it easier to take care of. She didn't do another drastic haircut until high school, when she donated 10 inches of her long curls to Locks of Love, an organization that takes donations of hair and makes them into wigs for cancer patients.
Jacobellis says she sometimes longs for straight hair, and says it can be frustrating not to wear the latest trendy hairstyle. Her friends have straightened her hair every now and then -- a 3 1/2-hour ordeal that requires three people working on her."I'm limited in the styles I can do with my hair," she says. "I pretty much live on the road, bouncing from mountain to mountain."
When she's in the mountains, where the humidity is low, she says her hair is easy to work with. But during a recent surfing trip to Fiji, she said the curls turned into a big frizzy poof.
But even on those bad hair days, she says she now sees her hair as a major asset. One of her sponsors is hair-care giant John Paul Mitchell Systems. When the company's chairman, John Paul DeJoria, first met her, she said he went crazy over her hair."He told me it was one of a kind," she says. "It made me feel really good that it was something unique. It just goes to show you that you'll have things in your life that you don't appreciate. But once you become your own person, you come to appreciate those individual differences. Embrace it! It's not something everybody has!" Lindsay's favorite products: Paul Mitchell's The Conditioner, Round Trip and Skinny Serum. "There really is no replacement for The Conditioner," she says. "It makes my hair look really natural and normal, like it hasn't been styled for two hours. I don't really have the time to do my hair all the time."