snowboardNeilson, Olsen claim Snowboarder X gold

MOUNT SNOW, Vt. -- It was a wild Snowboarder X final Friday as the Women's final came down to a photo finish and the Men's final saw three-time champion Shaun Palmer finish fourth after a nasty spill that sent the multi-sport star to the hospital for X-rays.

After two round of preliminaries where the field was whittled down to six finalists, both the men's and women's finals were ones to remember.

Drew Neilson
Despite colliding with Palmer, Neilson went on to win the gold.
The women's final proved to be a tight race all the way down the hill as Leslee Olson and Carlee Baker came into the final jump to decide the gold. Olson was in the lead but was unaware Baker was right on her heels.

Baker launched her way over Olson, landing a little roughly, causing the two to cross the finish line almost simultaneously.

"I didn't know anybody was behind me so I was just taking it easy, doing grabs and stuff," says Olson. "I probably should have pointed it a little more and had it for sure. I looked over and saw her in the air and just thought 'Oh no!' "

The announcers gave the "unofficial victory" to Baker but, taking a cue from the NFL, decided to go to the replay. After several back and forth maneuvers by the judges, Olson was given the gold medal, her first in X Games competition. It was especially sweet, considering she finished second in Snowboarder X at the 1999 Winter X Games.

On the Men's side, it was initially smooth sailing for three-time champion Shaun Palmer, who cruised through the first two rounds, crossing the finish line before anyone else even hit the final jump. But he wouldn't be so fortunate in the final.

Near the end of the run, Palmer collided with Drew Neilson in mid-air and was clipped soon after by Scott Gaffney. While Palmer was down, Neilson held on for the first-place finish.

"I just waited for a mistake, not that he made a mistake, but he hit the brakes before the second-to-last table," said Neilson. "I took a line on the outside and he came left and we kind of collided in the air. I guess he landed OK but he was hit from behind. I had enough speed luckily to make it over the last jump."

Neilson, who placed second in Snowboarder X at the 1999 Winter X Games, won despite feeling less than spectacular before the event.

"I was a little unmotivated this morning. Just the conditions and I've been on the road a lot. I was just trying to psych myself up," Neilson said.

Olson, who stuck around after her win to watch the Men's final, was concerned with Palmer's injury and was wishing him the best.

"I didn't see it but it just sucks that he's hurt. I hate it when people get hurt."

Neilson echoed Olson's thoughts.

"I just saw him go off in the body board so I guess it's just precautionary. I hope he's OK. He's a tough guy. He's been in a lot of bad accidents so I think he'll be alright."

The lastest official word was that Palmer was examined and released by the medical staff Friday. He has a contused tailbone and ribs.

Men's and Women's Snowboarder X results
  Men Women
1. Drew Neilson Leslee Olson
2. Scott Gaffney Carlee Baker
3. Jason Ford Line Oestvold
4. Shaun Palmer Alessia Follador
5. Ryan Neptune Jessica Dalpiaz
6. Seth Wescott Julie Zell
7. Jason Brown Candice Drouin
8. Mark Schulz Gwen Foster
9. Mike Jacoby April Lawyer
10. Jason Evans Kelly Clark
11. Andy Hetzel Ali Bernsten
12. Dave Dowd Bibien Mentel

 Shaun Palmer and Drew Neilson collide in mid-air during the finals.
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 Leslee Olson wins Snowboarder X gold by inches.
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 Ride along with Olson as she goes over the gap.
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 Shaun Palmer understands the cashing is a part of the sport.
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 Drew Neilson explains what happened during the Boarder X finals
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 Olson gets the good news.
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 Olson enjoyed the course.
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