New ski event brings back old names

Mon Feb 9, 2009 8:48pm EST
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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - As the Olympics' newest and hippest event, ski-cross promises to deliver some bone-jarring excitement when the sport makes its debut at next year's Winter Games.

Ski-cross, where four skiers race down a mountain shoulder-to-shoulder, carries the kind of street credibility capable of attracting the younger audience that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) covets.

The X-Games generation, however, might cringe at the idea that some of the first Olympic medals handed out could go to skiers in their 30s.

Certainly experience ruled on foggy Cypress Mountain at the weekend as Aleisha Cline, a 38-year-old mother-of-two, put down her marker as an Olympic medal contender with victory in a World Cup event.

Chris Del Bosco, a reformed alcoholic and comparatively young at 26, elbowed his way across the finish line first in the men's event to give Canada a sweep of World Cup races that also served as Winter Games test events.

Familiar faces abound in the sport. American Daron Rahlves, the 2001 super-G world champion, now 35 and a father of twins, is back racing, as is his former Alpine ski team mate Casey Puckett, 36, whose two children are cheering him on as he bids for a spot on his fifth U.S. Olympic team.

Reigning ski-cross World Cup champion Ophelie David of France is the mother of an eight-year-old, while Magdalena Iljans of Sweden had her two children with her in Vancouver.

"Magda, Ophelie and myself, we've been doing it (ski-cross) since almost the very beginning," said Cline, a ski-cross pioneer and four-times X-Games champion, who ended a five-year retirement to pursue her Olympic dream. "I could be their mother and I give them lots of advice but I love it.   Continued...

<p>France's Oliver Fabre (R), Austria's Patrick Koller (C) and compatriot Wolfgang Auderer take to the air while competing in the men's ski cross at the FIS Freestyle World Cup at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, British Columbia in this February 6, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Richard Lam/Files</p>