FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Beaver Creek: Schlopy hangs on, finishes fourth in Birds of Prey GS

Beaver Creek: Schlopy hangs on, finishes fourth in Birds of Prey GSAmerican Erik Schlopy hung on in Saturday’s giant slalom to finish fourth in a race that saw him ski one-third of his first run on a snowy Birds of Prey GS course without a pole and the second run with a broken left hand.

The 33-year-old native of Buffalo, New York, whacked his hand on the base of a gate with 15 gates left in his first run, causing him to lose his pole.

Schlopy dug in and finished the run in 1 minute, 16.87 seconds, good enough for fourth place. With his pole taped to his broken left hand, Schlopy laid down a second run that put him just one-hundredth of a second behind Finland’s Kalle Palander, narrowly missing an American sweep behind Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves

‘I’m excited about the result today. Being the third-best American and in fourth place – that’s something’ Schlopy said. ‘This is the best GS team we’ve ever had.’

Schlopy broke his hand coming out of the Abyss section of the course. Coming into a left turn with a lot of speed, he ‘laid over it’ and his hand ran into the base of the gate.

‘The gates are flex gates, but I hit it two inches above where it sticks out of the snow and there’s no flex’ he said. ‘So it just blew my hand back, blew the pole right out of my hand. It was painful. I think I yelled out when it happened. But I said screw it and I went for it the rest of the way.’

The incident must have brought bad memories back into Schlopy’s mind; last year at the Adelboden, Switzerland, GS the he lost a pole – and two seconds – knocking him from fourth at the split to out of the points. In front of the home crowd, he was determined not to let it happen again.

‘Today when it happened I said, ‘You know what, I gotta stick my head in it, keep going and not worry about it.’ So, that’s what happened. Obviously I lost some time, but I’m really happy with it’ he said.

In the scheme of things, Schlopy said he could handle a broken hand. The veteran U.S. Ski Teamer has battled back from injuries throughout his career, including a torn left ACL in 2004.

‘You don’t need your hand to ski’ he said. ‘Really hands – on the list of injuries – it’s pretty far down as far as seriousness for a ski racer. Except for trying to get the suit and boots on, it’s not that big of deal.’

Schlopy, who finished sixth in the giant slalom at Beaver Creek last year, said he was inspired by the performances of teammates Miller and Rahlves – both in Friday’s downhill, and in the opening GS run – and used their momentum to help his second run.

‘I’m using Bode’s quote. He said there’s two ways to ski fast, one is being inspired and one is getting mad. I think I did a little of both’ Schlopy said.

With his family and new bride, Olympic swimming gold medalist Summer Sanders, in the grand stands, Schlopy had as much support as any racer on the course. After the race, an emotional Sanders said she knew her husband could pull it out.

‘First of all, to watch somebody else that you love more than anything else in the world to compete – it’s the hardest thing in the world, she said. ‘You want him to do so well. I’m so proud of him. I can’t describe it. It’s unbelievable.’

Even Palander acknowledged the emotional pull of Schlopy’s return to the spotlight.

‘It’s really nice to have Erik back, close to the podium, he said. ‘It felt a little bit sad to me because it was just one-hundredth. But, maybe the next time.’

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