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Locals out in force at X-Games

CHARLES LEVINSON, Sun News Service

Mt. Snow, Vt. – If Tahoe seems a little less extreme this week it’s because this community is out in force for the annual ESPN X-Games which kick off Friday at Mt. Snow, Vt.

Team Tahoe at this winter’s X-Games spans the full spectrum of the event. Not only does Truckee and Tahoe have the most athletes representing any one ski community in the world – more than a third of the ladies’ field is made up of Tahoe gals – but Tahoe City’s Global Events Management is the organizer for the skiing and ultra cross events, and Olympic Valley’s Greg Nevolo is the course designer for the courses. Tahoe is represented by ESPN’s television commentator Chris “Uncle E” Ernst and the X-Games cameramen, Dave Seoane and Tim Mahoney, made the trip from Tahoe.

Skiercross

Look for Tahoe names on the skiercross podium as several favorites hail from local hills.

For the men, Shane McConkey and Bill Hudson are looking like contenders. Hudson placed second at the X-Games last year, behind Shaun Palmer.

“I got beat by a snowboarder last year,” he huffs. “My competitive juices are flowing and I definitely want to win.” The 1988 Olympian is looking for his due and has performed consistently in local skiercross races. He won three Lord of the Boards skiercrosses in 2000.

McConkey needs no introduction. He finished fifth in the skiercross last year and placed second the year before that. His skiercross resume is fat and includes a first place finish at the core games in Naebo, Japan, in 2000, a second place finish in the 2000 U.S. Freeskiing open in Vail, Colo., and a first place finish in the 1999 Johnny Moseley Invitational.

Another local heading out is Todd Kelly, born and bred Tahoe, and a former U.S. Ski Team member.

Women’s Field

The Tahoe ladies are stacked, and stand a good shot at a podium sweep in the skiercross.

Last year, Squaw Valley ladies took gold and silver in the skiercross. Both Anik Demers, who took gold last year, and Chiara Lawrence, last year’s silver medalist, are returning.

Anik, who won last year despite having dislocated her knee 20 days before the competition, says she is definitely stronger this year. Regardless of her results in skiercross, Anik wins the skiercross analogy prize: “Skiercross is like golf. If you screw up and you make it up later, you can still win. In Alpine racing if you screw up you’re done.”

Though Anik says she pays little attention to other racers, she says to look out for Lawrence as well as Micheala Boyle. This is Boyle’s first year at Winter X, but Boyle won last year’s Lord of the Board’s skiercross at Alpine Meadows and apparently has genetics on her side.

Another contender is Christy Kromer. Kromer skis Squaw Valley and was the 1999 and 2000 Lord of the Boards ladies champion. But keep an eye on the relatively unknown Katie Shackelford. The “Shack Attack” came from nowhere to win the X-Games qualifiers at Squaw Valley and a week later won the Red Bull Ultra Cross.

Big Air

Anybody who looks to the skies knows that Tahoe throws down. Jonny Moseley is going. What more need be said? Moseley won gold in the 1998 Olympics with one of those nifty, new school grabs. Gold in Nagano is one thing, but the X-Games gold has remained elusive. He placed second in the 1999 big air and a disappointing ninth last year.

Evan “Gangsta” Raps is going to Mt. Snow for the second time. He placed third at last year’s X-Games, second at last year’s Core Games and first in the 2000 Nokia Big Air in Oberhausen, Germany. Competitions aside, anybody whose watched this year’s crop of ski movies knows Raps is synonymous with sick.

Also in the mix is CR Johnson, the son of Squaw Valley Ski Patrol icon, Russ Johnson.

Boardercross

The men’s boardercross is a no-brainer. The interdisciplinary renaissance man of extreme, Shaun Palmer, will focus on snowboarding this time around and as always will be tough to beat.

He won the gold in skiercross last year, but got knocked out early in the boardercross. Boardercross is an old hat for Palmer though. He’ll be going for his fourth boardercross gold medal this year. Palmer has also taken gold in snow mountain biking and this year will be trying his hand in yet another event. He will compete in the hill cross, a snowmobile hill climb.

For the women, the local talent looks limited. But Norwegian Line Oestvold won the Red Bull Ultra Cross at Squaw Valley USA this year with teammate Katie Shackelford. Oestvold hails from Honefoss, Norway, and is currently the second ranked snowboarder in the world.

Big Air and Slopestyle

A quartet of Truckee riders will be competing. The big air is a 60-foot kicker. Go big or go home. The slopestyle competition is a course with nine hits, including picnic benches, table tops, gaps and rails.

Truckee’s Kevin Jones is the most decorated snowboarder going into the 2001 Winter X-Games. He has eight total medals in big air and slopestyle. He is the defending Slopestyle gold medalist, and took silver in 1998 and 1999.

Also making the trip from Truckee will be Andrew Crawford, Travis Parker and Jim Rippey.

Big Air and Slopestyle, Women

Going big for the women is a solid field of Tahoe riders. Heading that list is Truckee’s Janna Meyen. She finished second at the Sims Invitational World Championships Slopestyle in 2000 and is heavily favored in the slopestyle competition.

Other competitors include Tina Basich, a pioneer of women’s big air, and Katrina Voutilainen and Kim Bohnsack, both of Truckee.

So that’s that, the Tahoe who’s who at the 2001 Winter X-Games. This is the fifth X-Games and ESPN is doling out $515,000 in prize money over the five-day competition. The games begin Friday and will be aired on ESPN at 6 p.m.


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