For months, Russian passport-holder Wild has been shuttling between Moscow and the mountains in Siberia and Europe where the Russian team trains. 

The idea of asking Moscow for citizenship came from Russian snowboarding champion Alyona Zavarzina, whom Wild started dating a few years ago and married soon after.

“Most people thought I was pretty crazy but they were also, like, you know what, man? Go for it,” he said. “Everybody that I snowboarded with was super stoked.”

Obtaining Russian citizenship usually takes much longer than the one year it took Wild – even for those with Russian spouses – and he suspects his application may have been nudged along at the highest level after Zavarzina spoke to then-President Dmitry Medvedev at a Kremlin reception.

“They were able to make it happen,” Wild said.

The Kremlin has been known to fast-track the citizenship process, though the highest-profile cases have been more political: the irreverent French actor Gerard Depardieu, who very publicly denounced France's high taxes, in January 2013 and Britain's notorious 'Cambridge Five' double agents Kim Philby and Guy Burgess in the 1960s.

Others competing for Russia in Sochi include Viktor Ahn (Ahn Hyun-Soo), a South Korean short track speed skater, and Alex Glebov, an Alpine skier from Slovenia.

A question of funding

Though Wild has been on the US national team in non-Olympic events, he’s been dogged by the same problem as most young US athletes hoping for a chance at the Games: constantly battling for funding – which, in the US, is mostly a private affair.

“I didn’t have nearly enough support to get what I wanted out of the sport,” he said. “I was digging myself a hole I wasn’t getting out of.”

The state-run snowboarding set-up in Russia has allowed him to concentrate purely on his sport, Wild said. Unlike his wife, he does not have any sponsorship deals. But funding from the sports ministry is generous enough to allow him to devote himself to snowboarding full-time.

Wild, who has been snowboarding since he was seven, said he doesn’t need much coaching and is mostly left to his own devices by the Russian coaches, an arrangement he prefers.

At the same time, he admitted he feels an obligation to perform well in Sochi.

“With how much money they are investing into us individually, you owe it to them to try your best,” he said.

“It’s pretty insane how fast I can go”

Russia has not only spent more than $50 billion to host the Olympics, but has poured money into winter sports ahead of 2014 to try to ensure a large medal haul. The national team performed disappointingly during the last Winter Games in Vancouver, finishing 11th in the final medals table.

A relatively new Olympic discipline, snowboarding is traditionally dominated by athletes from the United States. Russia has only one Olympic medal to its name – Yekaterina Ilyukhina’s 2010 silver in Vancouver.

And other than Wild, who competes in the slalom events, the handful of Russian snowboarders with high hopes for medals in Sochi are women, including Zavarzina and double world champion snowboarder Yekaterina Tudegesheva.

Wild said he is currently in the best form of his life. Since joining the Russian team, he won bronze at the parallel giant slalom world championship in January 2013 and last month he produced his best international performance to date, winning gold at a World Cup stage in Austria.

“I’ve got a lot better,” he said, in comparison to 2012. “It’s pretty insane how fast I can go.”

But he did say that, while the snowboarding at the highest parts of the Sochi resort was world class, temperatures lower down were not cold enough.

“If you go mid-mountain and below it’s a little warm and there’s not a whole lot of snow,” he said.

Wild says he has few regrets about the relocation to Russia and doesn’t plan to leave. While he hopes he’ll find the time to improve his basic Russian language skills after the Olympics are over, the bulk of his time may be going to snowboarding – with an eye on the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Russian snowboarder Alyona Zavarzina, Vic Wild's wife, at the presentation of the new outfit for the Russian national snowboard team in October 2013

(VoR, RIA Novosti)