Casey Puckett fourth at World Cup opener for skiercross
Aspen, CO Colorado
St. JOHANN, Austria ” Casey Puckett of Old Snowmass put his bothersome back and knee out of his head and charged down a dicey course to finish fourth in Monday’s season-opening World Cup skiercross in St. Johann, Austria.
“I’m very happy with my result for a couple reasons,” Puckett said in a U.S. Ski Team press release. “One, I was unsure of how I was feeling with my back and my knee coming in to this. Two, the course was extremely difficult. Considering that I qualified 16th, to end up fourth was really awesome.”
Switzerland’s Michael Schmid won the event, followed by Andreas Matt of Austria in second and Tommy Eliasson of Sweden in third.
Puckett skied a smart race to get to fourth, said Tyler Shepherd, the U.S. Ski Team’s head coach for skiercross.
“It’s a good way to start the season,” Shepherd said. “He skied really well. He was smart on the tight, short course. There were really no open passing lanes. It was really smart skiing on his part. He wasn’t trying to do too much.”
According to Puckett, the course presented challenging conditions that were difficult for him.
“It wasn’t the greatest course to start on for me because it was rock hard. The jumps were sending me really high and down onto the flats,” Puckett said. “The course was really hard on my body. It would have been just fine for me to leave here getting out of St. Johann healthy.”
Shepherd said the course was unlike any other he has encountered because of its icy conditions.
“It was one of the most difficult ski cross courses either of us has ever seen,” Shepherd said. “The athletes were very challenged because they injected the hill, which, for ski cross, is a bit of a shock. It was an ice rink, so we are happy he just made it out unscathed.”
In the women’s race, Marion Josserand of France won, followed by Katharina Gutenssohn of Austria in second and Kelsey Serwa of Canada in third.
Defending Winter X Games champion Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, Calif.) will join Puckett and the rest of the U.S. men’s team later this month for the World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y. Former U.S. Ski Team alpine racer Caitlin Ciccone (Littleton, N.H.) competed in her first World Cup skiercross in St. Johann, but did not make the finals.
For Puckett, a two-time Winter X Games gold medalist, Monday’s race was just the opener for what he hopes is yet another banner season.
“It’s a long season this year and I feel great about getting past the first race. I look forward to World Championships, the X Games and our World Cup in Lake Placid,” he said. “But I just can’t stress enough that I am happy with fourth place in the first event and I think I can continue to improve from there.”
Next up is a World Cup on Saturday in Les Contamines, France.
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