All eyes were on the slopes of Cypress Mountain on Day 10, as an exciting new event made its debut on the Olympic stage, instantly capturing the imagination of Olympic fans.
It’s like New York cab drivers racing through the traffic, says US veteran skier Daron Rahlves. One spectator at the Cypress Mountain compared it to motocross on skis, while another invoked that other recent Olympic newcomer, BMX. But whichever way you look at it, ski cross made a triumphant Olympic debut on Day 10 at Vancouver 2010, with the men’s event captivating fans both at the course and across the globe with its high-octane mix of speed, leaps, and daring overtaking manoeuvres.
Following a single skier timed qualification round, the 32 competitors were seeded and split into eight heats of four racers. The expectant 4,000-strong crowd at the foot of the course was whipped into a frenzy as Metallica and Nirvana were pumped through the loudspeakers, and was treated to a blistering hour of high-quality ski racing – with no lack of thrills and spills. In the quarter-finals, for example, Rahlves made an all-or-nothing move on the kicker just before the last run-out and collided with France’s Tedd Piccard.
And, at the same stage of the final, home-grown favourite Christopher Delbosco, lying in the bronze medal position, overstretched himself in a bid for glory and crashed. Norway’s Audun Groenvold skied past him to win bronze. Andreas Matt of Austria won silver and, like Groenvold, earned his country its first ever medal in freestyle skiing. But both men were left in the wake of Switzerland’s Michael Schmid, who was first out of the starting gate in the very first heat and never looked back, skiing five clean runs in a row to claim gold.
“We had a lot of fun out there today,” said Schmid afterwards, speaking for both the athletes and everyone watching.