David Squeaks Out a ThreepeatThe crowd gathered at the bottom of the X Course Sunday afternoon at Buttermilk Mountain. They were treated to an exciting Skier X Women's Final. Ophelie David of France passed Sweden's Magdalena Jonsson on the final kicker to earn her third straight gold. After leading early, David found herself struggling to measure the jumps and rollers on a slow track and trailing Jonsson before catching her at the bottom of the course.
"This was so amazing," David exclaimed. "I surprisingly caught some speed in those last turns. All I thought was I have got to pass and I have to pass now."
Of course, nothing about David winning was surprising. Also not unusual? The lack of an American podium threat. No US skier has medaled at Winter X since Patti Sherman-Kauf took bronze back in '02, and prospects for future growth currently aren't all that bright.
"I'm gonna be brutally honest- there's not even any girls right now who can even contend. Our girls, they seem to have no aggressive ski in them at all," says Daron Rahlves. "You see some of the girls like David or (Karin) Huttary, and a few others, and they scrap."
Getting female racers into the ski cross pipeline has been a challenge. Like Rahlves, Casey Puckett is a guy with an alpine race background who moved to ski cross as he got older. He says many of the top female racers just aren't willing to stick around. "I know (US coach) Tyler Shepherd has been trying to recruit, but generally all the fast girls just want to move on. After a long alpine career, they're like "I don't need to go out (for ski cross)," he says. "The girls we're getting right now, they like skiing big mountain and have a small racing background, but they're not quite as fast as the girls they're skiing against."
With ski cross on the slate for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it'll be interesting to see if the US can put together a competitive team. "The girls we have now," Rahlves says, "they have a lot to improve on, that's for sure."