In 13 years of Skier X, no man has won back-to-back gold medals. This year, Canadian Chris Del Bosco has a better shot than anyone ever has.
After Friday's qualifying runs, which are basically time trials, Casey Puckett and Davey Barr stood near the finish corral shaking their heads. "We're still trying to figure out where he found two seconds," Puckett said.
Incredibly, Del Bosco finished that far ahead of the field in an 84-second race, one more sign he's the man to beat in Sunday's finals. Del Bosco is not only the defending champion, he's also coming off a win in the World Cup and was the only guy to triple the big step-up jump in qualifying.
"One of [Del Bosco's] talents is being able to dial in a course right away," Canadian head coach Eric Archer said Friday. "Most of these guys spent the first training day trying to make it run smooth, but Chris was already looking for speed in every little place."
Del Bosco switched ski sponsors last spring from Atomic to Stöckli, which is one of the only manufacturers to make skis specifically for ski cross racing. He also signed a helmet-logo sponsorship with Nokero, which makes solar-powered light bulbs. He's feeling particularly confident due to his recent World Cup win, he said.
Among Del Bosco's competition, former Skier X champions Puckett and Daron Rahlves again return as the wily U.S. veterans. Rahlves is staying at Puckett's place this week in Aspen, but they remain as competitive with each other as ever, Puckett said. Before a training session Wednesday, Rahlves, 37, said he's been skiing four days a week this winter -- not bad for a dad with 3-year-old twins.
On the women's side, France's Ophelie David will try to make history: No woman skier has won five consecutive gold medals, or even five gold medals total. But David, one of the most humble Winter X Games athletes, said she gains no confidence from her past wins. "Oh no," she said. "I don't think about them. I take every race as a new challenge."
David lost a big threat to her four-peat when Olympic gold medalist Canadian Ashleigh McIvor blew out her knee after taking too much speed into a jump on Wednesday. Archer addressed McIvor's state of mind Friday: "She's OK. She goes in and out, but she understands that these are the risks involved with the sport."