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Freestyle worlds: Kraus tops Hayer for SX gold


Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic defended his skiercross world championship title Tuesday at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. Kraus’ teammate Stanley Hayer took the silver medal and Enak Gavaggio of France captured the bronze. Roman Hofer of Austria rounded out the final in fourth place.
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy — Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic defended his skiercross world championship title Tuesday at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. Kraus’ teammate Stanley Hayer took the silver medal and Enak Gavaggio of France captured the bronze. Roman Hofer of Austria rounded out the final in fourth place.
    In the women’s competition, the French team claimed the first two spots as Ophelie David — four-time skiercross FIS World Cup champion — grabbed gold ahead of teammate Meryl Boulangeat. Germany’s Alexandra Grauvogl claimed the bronze medal and Switzerland’s Seraina Murk completed the final four.
    Kraus was second in the 2007 skiercross FIS World Cup behind Audun Groenvold of Norway, who ranked eighth Tuesday. At the first skiercross World Championships at Ruka, Finland, in 2005, David was a bronze medalist. while 20-year-old Boulangeat took silver in the FIS Junior Freestyle World Ski Championships in Krasnoe Ozero, Russia, last season.
    Kraus was the third-fastest in the morning qualification and advanced to the finals by winning all his heats. Teammate Hayer ranked second behind Kraus in all the final heats on the challenging championship course. Gavaggio had only the 25th-fastest qualification time but then skied strongly in his heats, using each passing opportunity available.
    “Today it was a perfect day for me,” Kraus said. “I had luck, my skis were good and I skied very well. I had some bad races this year during the World Cup and today I thought it was time to make a breakout and be able to win. My starts were good during the different runs even if I had some problem in the final.
    “I’m satisfied with the race and I’m really happy also because the Czech Republic was able to get both the first and the second place. It’s not easy to compete against a teammate, but we managed it well. The attention for skicross in the Czech Republic is growing really fast, also because of our successes.”
    Hayer, who has Canadian roots, said, “I can’t say that I expected the medal today because you can never expect anything in skicross — it’s always a matter of luck and skill.
    “I was able to improve my start run after run and in the final I started quite well, so I’m really satisfied with the second place. In the final I was able to manage well the corner jump which was quite tricky and gave me some troubles in the qualification run, where I lost some seconds. Then, during the race, I had to change my line a lot because of the others, but thanks to a pair of really fast [Atomic] skis, this wasn’t a problem.”
    Gavaggio said, “To be fair I wanted to do something better in today’s race. I made a lot of mistakes, especially in the qualification where I almost got disqualified. This year I didn’t do too many races because I was seeking to have some more fun with [freeskiing], jumps and freestyle action that you can’t find in slalom races. The semifinal was really hard and there was a lot of competition and the final was really thrilling because, after a mistake that I made, I had to climb up from the last to the third position, but I managed it well."
    David also won all her final heats, as did Boulangeat, before David turned out to be too strong for her in the A final. Grauvogl, a 10th-place-finisher in the 2005 championships, surprised with her strong performances following her three 13th-place finishes in the FIS World Cups this season and a 12th-place ranking in the skiercross FIS World Cup standings.
    “My race was good. The course was hard and tricky though,” David said. “I decided to change my lines from the qualification because I wanted to give fewer possibilities to pass me for the others. My tactic for the final was pretty simple — start fast, ski fast and finish first. This was made easier by my skis, which were really fast.”
    “I was a little bit surprised by my performance today because I didn’t like the track a lot,” Boulangeat said. “Yesterday during the training I didn’t feel good and I was a little bit tired, so I lost some of my self-confidence for today’s race. Today, during the runs, I felt better and better and I got back some of my self-confidence.”
    Grauvogl said her bronze was unexpected. “I had a hard week at the university and only four races this year in the World Cup,” she said. “About today, I had the perfect race. My secret? I think it was my good technique and my ability to ski well in weather conditions like the ones we had today. I think I can say it was my best day in the season; everything worked well and at best, the skis were amazing, something that is really important in skicross.
    “In Germany, the skicross movement is improving. We have some good young people who are doing really well and I think that Germany as a nation can only get better.”
    Tuesday’s race was the first FIS World Championships competition in skiercross since the event was accepted into the program for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. Click here for complete results.

Wintersteen: U.S. athletes "ready to go"
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy — The 2007 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships have begun after a six-week postponement because of poor snow in January. Action got under way Tuesday with skiercross and will continue on Friday with aerials qualifying and moguls finals. 
    "The organizers have done a good job with what snow they've been able to get, but there isn't a lot of snow," U.S. freestyle head coach Jeff Wintersteen said Monday. "It's going to be a challenge and we'll just have to see.
    "The snow is soft and wet, but our athletes are ready to go … and the organizers are working hard to provide the best conditions for the athletes."
    Sixteen U.S. skiers will compete. Nate Roberts is the defending moguls world champion and he won two contests this season. Former Olympics and Worlds moguls medalist Shannon Bahrke also won two events this season and finished No. 2 in the moguls points in her best winter since she won the 2003 World Cup moguls title. Missing from the roster is Hannah Kearney, who will not defend her women's gold medal after suffering a knee injury a month ago and undergoing surgery that ended her season.
    In aerials, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson won two aerials contest this season and has fine-tuned his "Hurricane," a five-twists, three flips jump which is the most difficult in freestyle skiing. He set records for one jump and for a World Cup event in mid-January at Utah's Deer Valley Resort, winning two in 24 hours.
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;   On the women's side, aerials coach Matt Christensen said he feels Emily Cook is jumping the best of her career and could be a surprise at the championships. "She's landing her triples [i.e., three twists, two flips] and Emily's ready to do something special," he said.
    Live scoring is available for every event at http://livetiming.usskiteam.com.
    Click here for a complete schedule of the 2007 Freestyle World Championships.

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