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ski cross

[ Wed, 2010-02-24 15:08 ]
Ashleigh McIvor competes in ski cross final
Canadian Ashleigh McIvor takes home gold.

The heavy favorite in the inaugural women’s ski cross didn’t let her country down. The defending 2009 world champion, Canadian Ashleigh McIvor, took home gold yesterday in front of cheering crowds at Cypress Mountain. Hedda Berntsen of Norway won silver, followed by France’s Marion Josserand with bronze.

Vancouver 2010: Freestyle Skiing Events

Vancouver 2010: Freestyle Skiing Events
SwifterHigherStronger.Freestyle
As skin-tight speed suits attest, it’s not how good you look but how fast you go that wins you Olympic medals in the alpine disciplines. But in freestyle, style counts too.

Moguls Moguls competition, an Olympic event since 1992 (Albertville), rewards technical execution, artistic expression and speed. Competitors pinball down a steep bump field that’s interrupted by two kickers, one near the top and one near the bottom. Five judges award points for precise turns—knees together, skis in constant contact with the snow, shoulders parallel to the finish line—and two judges score the aerial maneuvers for difficulty, amplitude, execution and landing.

Collision Course

Collision Course
Speed Riders
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

This we know about Daron Rahlves: He is the most accomplished American downhill racer of all time. A competitive streak runs so deep in his system that
it’s like a thread spun directly into his chromosomal helix.

But can that explain why a 36-year-old father of 2-year-old twins would subject himself to the often violent rigors of ski cross, the newest sport—some would say “blood sport”—on this winter’s Olympic agenda? He already has a hall-of-fame résumé. What else is there to prove?

Collision Course, Page 8

Collision Course, Page 8
It used to be called “Chinese downhill”; now it’s an Olympic sport. One thing hasn’t changed: It’s patently unsafe.
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

In the two World Cup events he entered last year, he registered the third-fastest times in qualifying runs.

Collision Course, Page 7

Collision Course, Page 7
Casey Puckett Portrait
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

But as ski cross grows in relevance and prestige—Olympic acceptance being a key badge of acknowledgement—it is colored by a singular oddity for a new sport: It is growing in a top-down way.

Collision Course, Page 6

Collision Course, Page 6

Downhill great Daron Rahlves is about as new to ski cross as he is to fatherhood.

The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

But as ski cross homes in on its true identity, it is increasingly taking on the look and feel of elite-level alpine racing. In bringing ski cross into the U.S. Ski Team family last year, the Americans were putting it on more or less equal footing with the national alpine team. But they were actually a little late in doing so, and at times the cross team looks a little like the runt of the litter among national teams. The 2008–2009 team, for example, consisted of three funded athletes (Rahlves, Puckett and another former U.S.

Collision Course, Page 5

Collision Course, Page 5
U.S. coach Tyler Shepherd guides a team on which the stars are actually older than he is.
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

The clothing controversy is just one example of an underlying cross question: What, exactly, are the rules? There is a rule book, but Puckett, now in his third season, says he’s never read it. He’s not alone. Instead, the de facto rules, particularly regarding on-course entanglements, are essentially framed by a gentlemen’s agreement. “We try not to kill each other,” Puckett explains. Protests and disqualifications are unusual, because to lodge a protest against another athlete would violate that gentlemanly code of conduct. Will this fly when there are Olympic medals at stake?

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