Rahlves qualifies 9th behind Schmid
AP Sports Writer
WILMINGTON, N.Y. (AP) – Daron Rahlves stared intently at the scoreboard for several minutes as his rivals crossed the finish line, then walked away knowing he had laid down a decent run.
Skiing sixth among 60 competitors, the 36-year-old Rahlves qualified ninth on Saturday in World Cup skicross on a sun-splashed afternoon at Whiteface Mountain. His time of 51.40 seconds was well behind Swiss leader Michael Schmid (50.02) and just ahead of U.S. teammate John Teller (51.83), who was 13th.
It was a solid showing nonetheless for Rahlves, a three-time Olympian in Alpine skiing before retiring after the 2006 season and moving over to freestyle.
Especially when you consider he’s on a limited schedule.
“I had two good runs this morning, that one was off. It’s important to know that you’re fast,” said Rahlves, who skipped the previous three races to spend time at home in Sugar Bowl, Calif., with his 2-year-old twins, Miley and Dreyson.
“This course is good for passing, and there’s a lot more chances for mistakes,” he said. “If you don’t do it right, you’ll find out quick.”
Participants qualify by racing alone against the clock down the course. The times are used to seed skiers in heats of three or four, with two eliminated each round until the final four race for medals.
Fanny Smith of Switzerland paced the women in qualifying with a time of 54.79, just ahead of Kelsey Serwa (54.85) and reigning skicross world champion Ashleigh McIvor (55.07) of the powerful Canadian team. World Cup leader Ophelie David of France was sixth, while Caitlin Ciccone and Langely McNeal of the United States were 22nd and 25th, respectively.
“I’m kind of pleased with my run,” said McIvor, who’s in a bracket in her first heat Sunday with Ciccone and Julia Manhard of Germany. “I kind of did the smart thing for once. I’m learning.”
The undulating course on Whiteface’s Lower Valley section is slightly over a half-mile long with a vertical drop of 500 feet. It dips out of the gate, giving the skiers a lot of air right away, and from there it’s a straight line over a section of wavy terrain with a series of nine rollers. Then it’s into a banked right-left-right turn into another set of rollers, a quick left-right banked turn, two more rollers and a left down to the finish.
“There are lots of options, which is really cool,” McIvor said. “There are some rollers that you could potentially double or sort of slow down and crest them. I didn’t really slow down. I just decided to crest them instead of doubling and potentially taking myself out right before the Olympics.”
McIvor is one of the favorites to win gold in her backyard of Whistler, British Columbia, when the sport makes its Olympic debut in February.
“I feel all sorts of pressure. I’m beginning to wonder what pressure even is,” said McIvor, 28 points behind David in the World Cup standings. “I’m just sort of used to it. That’s how it is these days. All I can do is my best. Hopefully, it works out.”
Casey Puckett of the United States, who suffered a severely separated shoulder in France 10 days ago, is not competing here. Puckett, a 37-year-old, four-time Olympian in Alpine, came out of retirement to try to make it back to the Olympics in skicross this year.
“He’s working hard at rehabbing,” Rahlves said. “He’s staying positive, putting in the effort.”
Rahlves’ bracket for his first heat includes Canada’s Brady Leman, Lars Lewan of Sweden, and Anders Rekdal of Norway.
“It’s fun for me. It’s a new challenge,” Rahlves said. “Nobody’s going to take more risk than I am. Just show up and go. That’s what I’m trying to do.
“This is a long ways from my home, but it’s still in the U.S. I want to win this thing,” he said. “I’ll be fighting hard to make it to the finals and let it all hang out there.”
So, too, will Errol Kerr of Jamaica. He overcame his 34th qualifying slot to finish fifth.
“We came from the very back of the pack and put it in fifth place,” Kerr said as he signed some autographs. “We’re just going to go at it.”