Olympics-Freestyle-Ski cross gives downhillers second chance
VANCOUVER Feb 18 (Reuters) - The speed of NASCAR, the skill of motocross and the danger of bull-riding -- welcome to the world of ski cross.
Making its Winter Games debut in Vancouver from Sunday, ski cross skiers race down a fast-paced course filled with sharp turns, jumps and moguls. The first to cross the finish line wins.
"It's like a cabbie in New York trying to race through traffic and not crash," explains U.S. skier Daron Rahlves.
For Rahlves, the sport combines all the elements of skiing he likes with increased speed, skill and risk.
After retiring from alpine skiing in 2006, the 36-year old said he needed a new challenge. He started skiing ski cross and made his World Cup debut in 2008.
"Ski cross is definitely a risky sport, even more so than downhill because you aren't the one in control all the time. You have to take a lot of calculated risks that can change really quickly with certain speeds and terrains."
Team mate Casey Puckett also took up the sport after retiring from Alpine in 2002. He has been a dominant figure on the course since, soaring to gold in the 2003 X Games.
"I've been doing this since 2003 and I was hooked the first time. There's an element of risk, and that's why we gravitate to it."
The 37-year-old is one of three other American Olympians to have competed at five Games. Vancouver marks his Olympic debut for ski-cross.
(Editing by Jon Bramley; To comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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