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U.S. Ski Cross team in France for World Cup opener

TIGNES, France — U.S. Ski Cross Coach Tyler Shepherd is in Europe with a group of eight U.S. athletes for the opening of FIS Ski Cross World Cup in Europe, plus an invitational event in Tignes, France. Four former U.S. alpine team athletes will be among the skiers. Ski cross is the newest Olympic event and will debut in Vancouver in 2010.
TIGNES, France — U.S. Ski Cross Coach Tyler Shepherd is in Europe with a group of eight U.S. athletes for the opening of FIS Ski Cross World Cup in Europe, plus an invitational event in Tignes, France. Four former U.S. alpine team athletes will be among the skiers. Ski cross is the newest Olympic event and will debut in Vancouver in 2010.
    The athletes will compete in a pair of French World Cups, Jan. 12-13 in Les Contamines, and Jan. 15-16 in Flaine. Several of the athletes will open with a Jan. 8-9 invitational in Tignes. The group will then head back to the states to compete in the first World Cup ski cross event at the Visa Freestyle International at Deer Valley on Feb. 2.
    "I'm looking forward to having some of the best U.S. athletes competing," Shepherd said. "We have a very strong group for the first World Cups of the year in France."
    Among the athletes going to Europe are former U.S. Alpine Ski Team racers Casey Puckett, Jake Fiala, Justin Johnson and Brett Buckles.
    With only two years to go in the lead-up to the winter Olympics, the level of competition has been raised in ski cross with the best athletes in the sport racing to have a shot at making the team.
    "I think it is important that we begin to have U.S. athletes competing at the World Cups as it will only help build momentum towards the Vancouver 2010 Olympics," Shepherd said. "Ski cross is an exciting sport to be a part of right now because we are starting to see more and more world class athletes crossover to the sport. It's gaining momentum and popularity every year."
    Other athletes expected to compete include Errol Kerr, Cody Smith and David Lamb in the men's World Cup plus Langely McNeal in the women's.
    The sport is so new that America has yet to play host to a ski cross World Cup competition. All that will change when the Visa Freestyle International takes place at Deer Valley.
    "I'm really excited for the Deer Valley event when we play host to the first ever World Cup ski cross in North America," Shepherd said. "The competition itself will be an intense race all the way to the finish. We have the same course builder who is slated to design and build the 2010 Olympic course, so we are sure to see a testing and exciting course for the athletes."
    Before the World Cup action begins, Puckett, Fiala, Buckles and Smith will compete in the Tignes Airwaves, an invitation-only competition that is similar to the X-Games.

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