Misunderstanding surrounds McNeal disqualification at X Games


Ski cross racer Langley McNeal was celebrating her berth into the X Games final round with friends and family in the finish area on Sunday when a race official spoiled the party, telling McNeal she had been disqualified for violating a clothing rule.

The complaint was submitted by French team coaches and McNeal’s disqualification led to French racer Marielle Berger’s advancement to the finals.

Confusion about what exactly McNeal, a Sun Valley, Idaho native, had done wrong was triggered when news spread that it was a Sarah Burke tribute ribbon McNeal was wearing around her leg that caused the disqualification.

“Was pretty pumped to ski in an X Games Final and to have it taken away for a clothing infraction involving a Sarah Burke band and a hair tie around my boot left me in shock,” wrote McNeal on her facebook page on Sunday. “Wish it could have been handled differently but I guess that is sports at this level.”

Athletes of all disciplines had worn stickers, banners and bands like McNeal’s all week to honor the late skiing legend. X Game vice president of events, Chris Stiepock said the tribute banners were allowed but additional “straps” McNeal had on broke competition rules.

“It had nothing to do with the Sarah banner. It had to do with straps she had on both legs around her boots. I can quote from the rules: ‘No straps or fastening devices or other methods can be used to tighten the suit material closer to the body,’ ” Stiepock told the Denver Post. “We certainly feel bad, but this has nothing to do with the Sarah banner. We have allowed all the athletes to wear those banners without stopping really anybody. This had to do with the fastening devices around her pant legs.”

“[The French team] lodged the complaint before they left the finish corral, which is what they are supposed to do,” said Stiepock. “Regardless of who lodged the complaint, it was a legitimate one, and we felt that a disqualification was warranted. Like I said, it’s unfortunate, but we gotta follow the rules.”

Within hours of McNeal’s disqualification, news spread across the internet and supporters, most believing the tribute ribbon had caused the violation, voiced their outrage with the decision on facebook and ski forums.

McNeal reached out to her fans to clarify the situation with a facebook post Monday morning.

“X Games and ESPN made an amazing tribute to [Sarah Burke] all week. My disqualification was not about the band but about a hair tie around my boot,” wrote McNeal. “I broke the rules and for that I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware there was clothing violations at the X Games. My Fault. My Bad.”

Image by Matt Morning/ESPN

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