Puckett, Rahlves are done chasing medals
WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. – Golf.
That’s all Casey Puckett of Old Snowmass offered up Sunday when asked what his plans were after bowing out in his first heat at the inaugural Olympic men’s skiercross at Cypress Mountain.
And for U.S. teammate Daron Rahlves?
“Just skiing pow now,” Rahlves, of Truckee, Calif., said after a vicious crash dropped him to fourth in his opening heat Sunday. “I’m done.”
Yes, Puckett and Rahlves are finished chasing Olympic medals. Who could blame them?
Puckett, at 37, with five Winter Olympics behind him, and too many crashes to count, didn’t get a good pull out of the start gate in his opening heat and never moved up from fourth place.
“I need something that’s a little easier on my body,” said Puckett, who was expected to be a medal favorite here before a crash at a World Cup in France last month separated the AC joint in his left shoulder. He had surgery on Jan. 13, then fractured his clavicle two weeks later during a training run on Aspen’s Winter X Games skiercross course.
In the two weeks leading up to the Olympics, Puckett did treatments and physical therapy around the clock to try to get the shoulder into decent enough shape to race.
“It was a big factor,” he said. “Not that it hurt me that much. It’s to a point where it’s not killing me, but I just don’t have the power. You really need a lot of power to get out of that start.”
Rahlves, 36, made it to the start gate despite dislocating his hip at last month’s Winter X Games, but got tangled up with France’s Ted Piccard coming off the course’s penultimate jump and crashed down straight onto his back. He managed to get back up quickly, but was passed by Sweden’s Eric Iljans – the day’s last qualifier – just before the finish.
“It’s the hardest thing to deal with right now,” Rahlves said. “It was a great track. I wanted to keep skiing.”
The crash didn’t re-injure his hip, but it did knock the wind out of him, Rahlves said. What hurt more was watching his chances at landing on an Olympic podium disappear in a blur.
“I tried to get up as fast as I could,” Rahlves said. “As soon as I came off that last jump, I saw the Swede pass me in the air. It was like, ‘Well, that sucks.'”
Puckett couldn’t have agreed more, considering the years of work he and Rahlves put in to get here.
After disappointing results in slalom, giant slalom and the combined at four Winter Olympics (Albertville, Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City) Puckett retired from the U.S. Ski Team in 2002. He went on to coach at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and took up skiercross, the high speed, alpine-freestyle hybrid of the Winter X Games. He won his first Winter X Games gold in 2004 and another in 2007.
Rahlves retired from the U.S. alpine team in 2006 after 12 World Cup wins but no medals in three Olympics. He won his first Winter X Games medal in 2008.
“I think [this experience] was awesome, unfortunately I just didn’t do it,” Rahlves said. “I had lots of support and everybody was behind me from team to sponsors and all that kind of stuff and family. It’s just a letdown for sure.”
“I did my best to get out of there,” Puckett added. “It’s really disappointing considering I put the last two years into it and I go down a month before the event and had to do everything in my power just to get here. I’m proud that I was able to do that. I could have been sitting home on my sofa watching this.”
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