Photo by David Zalubowski
ASPEN, Colo. -- Already so good in the aerials and moguls, the Canadians found another freestyle event to dominate.
All part of the country's attempt to win the medal count at the Vancouver Games, starting in less than two weeks.
Led by Chris Del Bosco, the Canadians swept the medals in men's Skier X ('skicross' in Olympic parlance) at the Winter X Games on Sunday. Dave Duncan took second and Brady Leman captured third.
On the women's side, Canada's Ashleigh McIvor finished runner-up to France's Ophelie David, who won her fourth straight title. McIvor's teammate, Kelsey Serwa, wound up third.
All of this bodes well for Canada's quest, which begins on the first full day of competition, Feb. 13, when Jenn Heil takes to the freestyle moguls course.
"That was our mandate when we put the team together -- to win medals in Vancouver," Del Bosco said. "It's going to be really fun to watch."
This is how deep Canada has become in skicross: Leman isn't even on the Olympic team. Stanley Hayer, not Leman, is the third member of the squad. Hayer finished seventh Sunday.
"When you have all these great skiers, skiing together, learning from each other and pushing each other, the level just elevates," said Del Bosco, who has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. "You can see we've been gradually building and building. Now, any one of us can win a race."
The racing Sunday was marred by the crash of U.S. Olympic freestyle skier Daron Rahlves, who was transported to the hospital after a nasty wreck in qualifying.
Rahlves lost his balance while going over a series of small bumps midway down the mountain and went flying off the course. Although he dislocated his right hip, Rahlves was released from the hospital Sunday night -- all in a typical day's work in the dangerous sport of skicross.
Leman was in the same heat as Rahlves, but was out in front of the accident.
"I had no idea that Daron went down, until I crossed the finish line," Leman said. "I was expecting to turn around and see either him or my two teammates I started the heat with right behind me. ... From what I heard, he just got tossed around a bit in there."
McIvor charged out to an early lead in the women's race, only to be tracked down by David. The two figure to vie for first and second in Vancouver.
"Of course, you want to win. But when it's Ophie that passes me, sometimes I go, 'OK, she's the best in the world,'" McIvor said.
HALL PASS: The skiing superpipe show went on without Tanner Hall in the field.
The event was won by Kevin Rolland of France, followed by New Zealand's Jossi Wells.
Hall, a podium regular in this discipline, had to sit on the sideline after an accident last May. He was preparing for a film shoot in Stevens Pass, Wash., when he hit a practice jump and soared well beyond the landing area.
He fell to the icy slopes below from nearly 50 feet up, shattering his knees so badly that he needed extensive surgery.
"Worst pain ever," the 26-year-old said.
Hall is taking the season off to allow his knees to fully heal.
To keep him occupied, Hall started a production company and record label that features reggae musicians.
He's also finishing up his high school degree after being kicked out as a sophomore for smoking marijuana.
By taking online classes, Hall is hoping to be done within a year. Currently, he's taking English, American History and geometry, which he says is more difficult than any trick he's ever tried on the slopes.
Some day, he may even enroll in college.
"Never say never," Hall said. "As I get older, there's a lot of things I want to do that I never thought I'd want to do."
In between studying and signing musical talent, Hall is hitting the gym -- hard. He wants to come back stronger than ever next season.
He said earlier in the week that watching these skiers on his playground, the superpipe, was going to be extremely difficult.
"This (accident) has humbled me a whole bunch, taught me about patience, slow down in life and enjoy the small things," Hall said. "I have learned how much I love this lifestyle and need skiing in my life."
JENNY JONES SHOW: Even with a sore knee, Britain's Jenny Jones was able to pull off a fantastic final run to move ahead of Jamie Anderson and successfully defend her title in the women's snowboard slopestyle event.
"I'm stoked for Jenny. She rode really well," Anderson said.
Anderson was just happy to be back on the slopes at Winter X. She fractured her pelvis a week before the event last year and had to watch from the sideline.
This was the second medal for the Anderson family. Her older sister, Joanie, won bronze in Snowboarder X on Saturday.
KICKERS: Snowmobiler Tucker Hibbert simply can't be caught at the X Games. Hibbert got off to a fast start in Snocross on Sunday and raced away from the field for his fourth straight title. .. Snowmobiler Dan Ebert fractured a rib during the Snocross competition. ... Eero Ettala of Finland won the men's snowboard slopestyle event. ... Tyler Walker captured his second straight Mono Skier X crown