Puckett takes skiercross silver in France
LES CONTAMINES, France Old Snowmass skiercrosser Casey Puckett overcame a sluggish start Sunday in Les Contamines, France, to finish second and lead three U.S. skiers into the top 20 in a World Cup event won by reigning world champion Tomas Kraus.Puckett, a four-time Olympian and repeat Winter X Games gold medalist, was followed by Frisco’s Jake Fiala in ninth place and Errol Kerr of Truckee, Calif. in 12th. Fiala and Puckett are former U.S. Ski Team members who raced on the alpine World Cup circuit. Kraus and bronze medalist Stanley Hayer raced on the World Cup for the Czech Republic’s national alpine team before venturing into skiercross. Kraus has won gold in skiercross at the last two FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships.”Casey’s been around so much and been in so many finals that naturally he’s always disappointed if he doesn’t win, but I think he’s really happy with the results. It’s a good way to start into the World Cup with skiercross,” said U.S. coach Tyler Shepherd in a USSA press release. “The only time he didn’t win his heat was when he was in the final up against Tomas Kraus, and he said that he got out of the start just a little slower than he did the other two heats.”According to Shepherd, Puckett’s start could have made the difference between first and second place because “It was very difficult to pass on this course. It was very tight at the top and it had some unique areas for jumps that were difficult, and then the bottom was really fast. They were probably approaching 55 mph, so to do any passing at that speed is very difficult.”Puckett is returning from a summer spent rehabilitating his right knee, which required microfracture surgery in April. He put off microfracture surgery to repair the torn cartilage in his knee for as long as he could, and for good reason. Last winter, at 34, he owned competitive skiercross, winning five out of the eight races he entered, including the gold at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk and the first two stops on the inaugural Honda Ski Tour. He also won his third overall title in the Jeep King of the Mountain series.Ophelie David of France was tops among the women’s field Sunday. No U.S. women competed. The skiercross World Cup circuit now moves to Flaine, France, for a competition Wednesday.”I’m very optimistic about how the boys will do because they’re all really fired up after getting the first one out of the way,” Shepherd said. “The guys have a better feeling of what to expect for the next race, so I think they’re all pretty confident in knowing that they can step it up.”
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When mountain culture enthusiasts and athletes descend on Vail for the 20th annual Mountain Games from June 7-12, they will carry on a tradition that dates back to the 1970s in Eagle County and was once deemed illegal.