Daron Rahlves, one of the most decorated male downhill and super G skiers in American history, pulled it together in a race filled with monumental crashes to take home his first X Games skicross gold medal Sunday.
ASPEN, Colo. — Daron Rahlves, one of the most decorated male downhill and super G skiers in American history, pulled it together in a race filled with monumental crashes to take home his first X Games skicross gold medal Sunday.
Rahlves, who retired from World Cup racing after the 2006 Olympic season, transitioned to ski cross when he decided he wanted to explore more aspects of skiing. The X Games gold is his first win in the sport and only his second time on a ski cross podium.
"I just wanted it. I wanted it really bad. There's a lot of room to make passes. I got up in the lead pretty quick, which is nice, and the whole time I just tried to work it, stay low and go fast," Rahlves said. "You never know when some guy's going to get in your draft and pass. I had to step it up."
He finished first ahead of runner-up Stanley Hayer of Canada and fellow U.S. Olympic skier and last year's X Games skicross gold medalist, Casey Puckett.
The presence of reigning Czech Tomas Kraus, the reigning SX world champion, newcomer Errol Kerr and Puckett meant Rahlves had to maintain his focus.
"I just have to dig deep. You know, Errol, he's a first time out here rookie but he's definitely on fire and Casey and Kraus. But you can't really think about the other guys. I knew I could pull it out so I just had to dig deep and put the hammer down," Rahlves said. "That's another gold for Truckee, too."
"This is the big stage for sure. I'm super stoked for Daron and Casey. I'm proud of Errol for what he did today," U.S. SX head coach Tyler Shepherd said. "He skied amazing and it's a great learning experience for him just to get into the finals. I'm also really happy that my guys are in one piece."
Sunday's SX races were filled with what are being called some of the worst crashes in X Games ski cross history. Nearly all of the wreckage centered around the second-to-last jump on the course and started with a quarterfinals crash involving Enak Gavaggio of France and Lars Lewen of Sweden. Both men came off the jump leaning back and dropped to the ground. Juha Haukkala of Finland ran into a similar problem in the next quarterfinal run, coming of the jump, also "in the back seat. He caught a ski on the hand of another skier before plummeting to the ground.
The women also had problems on the same jump as the men. In their semifinal run Austrian Karin Huttary, Merryl Boulangeat of France and Slovenian Sasa Faric all crashed.
The crashes were attributed to the fact that the course had become faster since the skicross practices and the 12 mph winds from a storm blowing into Aspen have been throwing riders off.
"I hope Enak and Lars and Haukkala are all OK and will be back soon," Shepherd said.
Ophelie David of France won the women's skicross heats, followed by Hedda Bernsten of Norway in second place and Swede Magdalena Jonsson in third.
While ski cross is finished at the X Games, World Cup skicross will make its first appearance in North America Saturday at Deer Valley Resort in Park City with the Visa Freestyle International.
WINTER X GAMES XII
Aspen, CO – Jan. 27, 2008
Ski Cross finals
1. Daron Rahlves, Truckee, CA, 86.05 seconds
2. Stanley Hayer, Canada, 86.27
3. Casey Puckett, Snowmass, CO, 86.61
4. Michael Schmid, Switzerland, 87.07
5. Errol Kerr, Truckee, CA, 87.61
6. Tomas Kraus, Czech Republic, 98.62
1. Ophelie David, France, 92.19
2. Hedda Bernsten, Norway, 92.70
3. Magdalena Jonsson, Sweden, 93.56
4. Nori Fukushima, Japan, 94.00
5. Sasa Faric, Slovenia, 94.35
6. Jenny Owens, Australia, 138.06