For Aspen, Colorado’s Casey Puckett and France’s Ophelie David, Friday’s grand finale of the Jeep King of the Mountain Skiing & Snowboarding World Professional Championships offered an opportunity to earn a most coveted title in the sport while establishing a few records that may never be matched.
TELLURIDE, Colo. — For Aspen, Colorado’s Casey Puckett and France’s Ophelie David, Friday’s grand finale of the Jeep King of the Mountain Skiing & Snowboarding World Professional Championships offered an opportunity to earn a most coveted title in the sport while establishing a few records that may never be matched.
Puckett, in winning his record third World Professional Championship, solidified his legacy as one of the most heralded competitors in skiercross history, while David became the only woman to earn two World Professional Champion crowns and positioned herself as the most dominant female to ever compete in the series.
Having competed in earlier races at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Utah, and Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, a field of 16 world-class athletes from across the globe converged at Telluride to battle for the top of the podium.
The Olympians, world champions and national champions representing Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Sweden and the United States, were vying for world professional champion honors and a piece of the $450,000 cash payout, plus an additional $20,000 in bonus cash from John Paul Mitchell Systems and the keys to a new 2007 Jeep Patriot.
Puckett, the four-time Olympian and five-time U.S. national champion, had earned world professional champion honors in 2004 and 2006, broken up only by Germany’s Martin Fiala in 2005. He began the day with a difficult first-round matchup against Olympian Stanley Hayer of the Czech Republic/Canada. After winning the first race, Puckett lost to Hayer in the rematch but advanced to the semifinals based on the time differential.
Next up was Lars Lewen of Sweden, a U.S. freeskiing champion and two-time gold medalist at the Winter X Games. Lewen had won the previous Jeep King of the Mountain title in Taos, which included an epic race against Puckett that resulted in an eye-popping crash by the defending champion. Lewen
stormed to a win in the first heat, but Puckett regained his form in the second race to advance to the finals.
There he would be pitted against the red-hot Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic, who has accrued a world championship and two World Cup championships in the past two years. Kraus breezed by Cody Smith of Spokane, Washington, in the first round before outlasting spirited open qualifier Eric Andersson of Sweden in the semifinals.
In a thrilling championship heat, Puckett won the first race by a tight margin and ousted Kraus via time differential in the second race to bring home the title. Lewen bested Andersson in the consolation heat to earn third place.
“I am completely elated right now, mixed in with some relief,” said Puckett. “I was a bit anxious because when you’re in the finals, all it takes is one mistake and you can lose the whole thing. The competition here was unbelievable, and I think I thrive when the person racing next to me is the best of the best. I think I have a killer instinct that allows me to thrive in skiercross, and right now I’m firing on all cylinders.”
In the women’s competition, David brought an astonishing seven-event win streak to Telluride. The seven-time World Cup titlist, three-time world champion and French national champion had won the final race of the 2005 season, each race of her world professional champion 2006 campaign, and the two earlier races this year in Utah and New Mexico.
She began the day by topping open qualifier Alexis Bennett of Ward, Colo., in straight races, before matching up against Brett Buckles of Steamboat Springs, a Gravity Game gold medalist and North American Freeskiing Champion, in the semifinals. Buckles put up a fight in both races, but David was just too much to handle and moved into the championship heat.
On the other side of the bracket, David’s French teammate, Meryll Boulangeat, was equally as impressive. The bronze medalist from this year’s Winter X Games opened with a win over open qualifier Lisa Ydeskog of Sweden before facing off in the semifinals against Magdalena Iljans of Sweden, a
six-time World Cup titlist. Boulangeat lost the first race but blew past Iljans in the rematch to reach the finals via time differential.
In the championship heat, Boulangeat stunned David by winning the first race, but David regained her composure and ousted her friend in the second heat to earn the title. Iljans held on for third place by defeating Buckles in the consolation heat.
“I’m so happy with how today turned out, not just in winning the world professional championship, but because I was able to race against my friend Meryll in the finals,” said David. “There is a special atmosphere at these events, and I feel like the competitors are part of one big family. I hope to have the opportunity to come back and try for a third title in 2008.”
The grand finale from Telluride will air on March 24 from 1-2 p.m. and March 25 from 1-2 p.m. on CBS Sports.
JEEP KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
Skiing & Snowboarding World Professional Championships
FINAL STANDINGS – TELLURIDE SKI RESORT – MARCH 2, 2007
**Overall 2006-07 men’s world professional champion: Casey Puckett
**Overall 2006-07 women’s world professional champion: Ophelie David
Telluride men’s skiercross results
1. Casey Puckett – Aspen, Colo.
2. Tomas Kraus – Czech Republic
3. Lars Lewin – Sweden
4. Eric Andersson – Sweden
5. Stanley Hayer – Czech Republic/Canada
6. Justin Glick – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
7. Chris Del Bosco – Vail, Colo.
8. Cody Smith – Spokane, Wash.
Telluride women’s skiercross results
1. Ophelie David – France
2. Meryll Boulangeat – France
3. Magdalena Iljans – Sweden
4. Brett Buckles – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
5. Anik Demers – Truckee, Calif.
6. Lisa Ydeskog – Sweden
7. Marguerite Thorp – Centennial, Colo.
8. Alexis Bennett – Ward, Colo.