DEER VALLEY — Canada ruled the skicross event at the World Freestyle Ski Championships on Friday, winning three of the six medals, including both golds. Somewhere back in history, the U.S. Ski Team deserves a little credit, though.
Christopher Del Bosco, who lives in Vail, Colo., won the men's gold medal for Canada. In his younger years, however, he was a promising youngster on the U.S. team.
A checkered past involving alcohol abuse sidetracked his skiing career. He said it was a third DUI arrest and an invitation from the Canadian team to tryout for its skicross team that turned his life around. Del Bosco holds dual citizenship for the U.S. and Canada.
Friday's win on the turny, jump-cluttered course at Deer Valley came as a well deserved reward.
Winning the silver was Jouni Pellinen of Finland and taking the bronze was Andreas Matt of Austria. America's John Teller of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the only American entry in either men's or women's final events, placed fifth.
Winning the women's gold was Canada's Kelsey Serwa, with teammate Julia Murray taking the silver. Anna Holmlund of Sweden won the bronze.
Each country was allowed four entries in qualifications. Canada, Australia and Germany each placed four in the men's final. Canada was the only country placing four in the women's final. Teller was the only one of four to make the final 32 cut in the men's event. There were no women entered for the U.S.
It is something Casey Puckett, a former U.S. ski team and skicross competitor, is attempting to remedy. He has started a grassroots program he hopes will draw skiers into the sport.
All six of the medalists began their skicross careers on their respective country's alpine teams. Better opportunities and greater interest in skicross drew them into the new sport, which made its Olympic debut last year.
Skicross, like the more familiar boardercross, involves skiing down a long, turny course that incorporates traverses, rolls, banks, moguls, turns and big air. There were 13 big jumps on the Deer Valley course, which took months to build, required tons of man-made and natural snow and required a skicross architect to build.
The race format involves four skiers jumping out of the starting gates and navigating the course as mistake free as possible. Typically, the skier that is first out of the gate has the advantage and wins. Two skiers from each heat advance. There are eight heats to begin with. After four rounds the four finalist race for the three medals.
One reason some alpine skiers are reluctant to enter is that wipe-outs are routine and injuries simply are part of the sport.
"Two days ago, I couldn't get out of bed," Serwa said. "I worked a lot, four hours a day, just to get moving. Once I started to race the adrenalin was there and I could barely feel the pain. It wasn't until I got to the bottom I realized, 'Yea, I'm injured.' We simply learn to race with pain."
There were at least a dozen crashes on Friday.
After the race, Serwa said she wanted to win the gold badly, but "in the back of my mind I didn't think it possible. But I got lucky."
In the quarter finals, she was in fourth out of the start.
"I thought that maybe if I held back something would happen," she said.
And it did. Two skiers got tangled up and she moved into second and into the semis. In the finals, she got the hole shot and said she simply held off those behind her.
Del Bosco placed fourth in the World Championships last year and fourth in the Olympics.
"I was wondering about the big events, if I could get it done," he said. "It feels great."
His strategy in the final heat was to get the lead early.
"I ended up in second," Del Bosco explained. "Andreas got out quickly and I just hoped something would open up. He left a little room on one turn and I took a more direct line and managed to pass. I felt he was on my tail, but I wasn't going to let him get by."
The event drew skiers from all over the world, including Russia and Brazil.
The World Championships will continue today with the men's and women's halfpipe finals at Park City Mountain Resort at 11 a.m. and the men's and women's dual mogul finals at Deer Valley at 7:30 p.m.
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