Walker takes mono skiercross gold; Aspen’s Ferguson 2nd
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
So much for jet lag.
Friday, skier Tyler Walker won two International Paralympic Committee World Cup downhills in Sestriere, Italy. Saturday, he caught a flight to Denver. Just hours after arriving at Buttermilk on Sunday, Walker turned Winter X Games 13’s mono skiercross final into a runaway.
The Franconia, N.H., native was the lone skier to stay upright’s in Sunday’s three-man final. The 2008 silver medalist was tested only briefly during a dominant wire-to-wire victory on the 4,400-foot course that drops nearly 700 vertical feet.
Aspen’s Sam Ferguson, who was assured of at least a bronze after Felix Snow dropped out after being injured during his semifinal heat, finished second. He overcame a fall mere feet from the start gate, and later passed Kees-Jan van der Klooster after the 2008 gold medalist lost his balance and his ski and took a long tumble.
“It snowed a lot and the course was a little slower than I thought it would be,” Walker said. “It ran fast enough.”
As Walker and van der Klooster rocketed out of the start gate, Ferguson appeared hesitant. Seconds later, he lost his balance, drifted to the right and plunged into a patch of deep snow.
As Ferguson attempted to pick himself up and get back on course, Walker vaulted into the lead. Van der Klooster struggled to time his rhythm during a flat section of rollers and lost precious time. Near the midway point, Walker had built a lead of more than six seconds ” cameras caught him looking over his shoulder to track his competitors and finding nothing but open snow.
The view in front was much the same as Walker methodically negotiated the X Course, cruising all alone to the finish.
“I managed to stay upright the whole time ” just barely,” he said. “That’s how you do well in this sport. You make it through and be consistent.”
Van der Klooster was not as fortunate. The usually steady Dutchman failed to absorb the contact during a hard landing, spun out of control and fell to the snow.
Ferguson passed van der Klooster soon after and sped for the finish. The 38-year-old soared high off the final jump, fell on his side and slid across the finish line.
“Persistence,” Ferguson said. “I tried to get out the gate fast and had a little wobble, but got back on course and tried to catch up to those guys. … It feels really good.”
Ferguson took bronze in the inaugural Winter X mono skiercross in 2005. Ever since, he said he’s been yearning for a return to the podium.
Being on home snow made Sunday’s ride extra special, he said.
“I couldn’t have done this without the support of this community,” Ferguson added. “I work full time, about 60 hours a week, and I’m really just here to see the sport progress and evolve. I could’ve used a little more training, but I hung in there and was fairly consistent.”
Ferguson’s latest quest for a medal had a less than auspicious start. He fell during his first run Saturday and broke his ski.
Sunday, he hung with the giants of the sport.
“It’s an honor to go up and compete with World Cup athletes,” he said. “For a guy who works all the time, to bring home a silver is special. I’m surprised that I’m here.”
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