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Puckett crashes

Aspen Times StaffAspen, CO Colorado

TAOS, N.M. One slight misstep from Aspenite and four-time Olympian Casey Puckett turned Saturday’s Jeep King of the Mountain world championships in Taos, New Mexico, upside down.Puckett lost control during a semifinal skiercross heat, crashed and finished fourth. Sweden’s Lars Lewen snagged a surprise victory. Stanley Hayer and Tomas Kraus – both from the Czech Republic – finished second and third, respectively.Puckett, the defending world professional champion and Winter X Games 11 gold medalist, sailed through his first round matchup against France’s Enak Gavaggio. In the semifinals Puckett was pitted against Lewen, a U.S. freeskiing champion and two-time Winter X Games gold medalist who beat open qualifier Cody Smith of Spokane, Wash., in the first round. Lewen bested Puckett in a very physical first race, but Puckett jumped ahead early in the second run. He maintained the lead until he chose too tight a line heading into a bank turn preceding a jump over a 2007 Jeep Wrangler. The compression got the better of Puckett, and he found himself performing an inadvertent 360 over the vehicle. He went crashing into the fencing and was forced to end his day prematurely.”I hadn’t had a problem at any point before that run, and when my legs could not engage, the compression just squashed me,” said Puckett, who still maintains his overall series lead over Lewin. “I thought I had a chance of landing it, but just couldn’t make it happen. I decided to stay down on the course for a bit to let things calm down and figure out whether I had any injuries. I plan on being ready to go for final race at Telluride.”Lewen, who also crashed trying to avoid a collision with Puckett, completed the race and moved into the finals to meet Hayer. Lewen swept Hayer in consecutive races to earn his first Jeep King of the Mountain title. Kraus earned third place by virtue of Puckett’s decision to sit the consolation heat out.The series heads to Telluride on March 2 and 3 for the season’s grand finale. There, the world professional champion will be crowned.


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