Daron Rahlves & Casey Puckett heal up for Sunday’s Winter Olympics ski cross

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on February 18, 2010 11:30 pm

Coming to the Games just weeks removed from injuries, Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) and Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) were proud just to have made their fifth and fourth Olympics, respectively. Successful therapies and the successes of their U.S. teammates now have them reaching even higher.

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Team USA is pulling these medals down left and right,” Rahlves said. “We’ve had some great success with the Snowboard Team and the Alpine Team. It’s right there in our grasp. It’s reality.”

The pair, both former members of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, trained in Rahlves’ hometown at an on-snow camp in Sugar Bowl, giving each other much-needed confidence in head-to-head battles while working their way back to form.

Rahlves dislocated his hip in the opening race of the X Games on Jan. 31 in Aspen, CO, and his recovery caused him to miss the Opening Ceremonies. He had an MRI on Thursday morning that reported encouraging progress, he said.

“It was really a long shot, but it turned out to be really good,” Rahlves said. “I’m really excited to be back up here.”

Prior to the injury, Rahlves was fourth in a World Cup event in Lake Placid, NY, on Jan. 24 and second before that in St. Johann, Austria.

Puckett ranked fourth in 2009 overall World Cup points standings and led the final round of his last World Cup event in Les Contamines, France, on Jan. 9 before falling and separating his AC joint. He decided to have it fixed surgically and tried to train again two weeks later, only to reinjure his shoulder three weeks out and start back from square one.

“I feel it’s actually back to the point where I still have a shot here,” Puckett said. “I definitely was questioning it three weeks ago, and then I feel pretty good.”

Injuries aside, the U.S. Team brings something to unique to the start gate in the debuting Olympic sport: Olympic experience.

”These guys are going to have an advantage over the entire field,” U.S. Ski Cross Head Coach Tyler Shepherd said. “They’re not going to be in the gate as nervous – at least I hope they won’t be – as the rest of the competitors.”

Rahlves said it’s exciting to represent a new sport at the Olympics – and one so exciting for both viewers and participants.

“It’s a risky sport,” he said. “There’s more risk out there than even in downhill because you’re not the one in control all the time. You don’t have control over everything that’s going on. You have to take a lot of smart calculated risks out there. It’s not just you. You’re adjusting to what other guys around you are doing and that can change really quickly.

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Training begins Friday for the team, with qualifications starting Sunday at 9:15 a.m. PT. Finals have an estimated start of 1:15 p.m.

Puckett said he’s just as anxious as he was in 1992, a fresh-faced 19-year-old racing against the likes of Alberto Tomba and Marc Ghirardelli in technical events.

“It’s extremely exciting to be in an Olympic Games where you’re more of a favorite to win a medal,” he said.

Traning will give the duo its first chance to see the course, but they’ve already heard some inside information from Head Snowboardcross Coach Peter Foley and hopes to get more of an inside scoop from men’s snowboardcross gold medalist Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, ME).

“I think it’s a really good course,” Puckett said. “It’s fairly long—it’s over a minute long. It has everything—big bank turns, you’re in the air a lot, you’re in the air like half of the time. It’s challenging, and there’s also long straightaways that give you an opportunity to pass. I think this course has everything.”

 

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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