Buckles surprises to win gold | VailDaily.com

Buckles surprises to win gold

Andy Frame
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyJess McMillan and Asia Jenkins battle for position off a jump Friday during the women's skiercross consolation final at the Winter Gravity Games at Copper Mountain.

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Brett Buckles is taking a tour through the skiing world.Three years ago, the Steamboat Springs native was on the U.S. Ski Team, competing across the globe with the likes of Picabo Street and Lindsey Kildow. After getting burned out, Buckles quit racing and moved to Arizona to be a college student. Now she’s back, and once again rubbing elbows with the best of her sport – literally.Buckles completed her comeback on Friday, winning the Gravity Games women’s skiercross gold medal at Copper Mountain. She beat out silver medalist and X Games finalist Valentine Scuotto of France to take home $10,000. Pretty good for someone who wasn’t planning on racing again.”I hated racing, and didn’t want anything to do with snow,” the 23-year-old Buckles said. “I came out here for a week for spring break last year and loved it, and thought, Wow this is not out of my blood yet.”After transferring to the University of Colorado in the fall, Buckles had a leisurely winter of skiing planned. But a friend persuaded her to race in an X Games skiercross qualifier earlier this year. “I did it,” Buckles said of her first-ever skiercross race. “And I made X Games, and it’s been chaos ever since.”Buckles crashed in the qualifying round in Aspen, but said Winter X was an eye-opening experience for her. “It was good because I got to see the best in the world,” Buckles said. “And I realized these girls aren’t necessarily better skiers than me; they just have so much more experience.”

Due to her instant skiercross success, Buckles is no longer enrolled for classes in Boulder, and is back to focusing on skiing.”Now I have some goals,” she said. “I have a reason to get in good shape this summer. Now I’m looking forward to making it a career.”Buckles had a good grasp of the course on Friday, winning both qualifying heats leading up to the finals. After men’s and women’s skiercross competitors had a chance to practice on the course on Thursday, they requested several changes be made to make it safer. “It was a mess at first,” Buckles said. “It ran really well for the boardercross but not for the skiers. It went from being a crazy course that really wasn’t working, to such an awesome course today.”Third-place finisher Sara-Maude Boucher took home the bronze despite falling on her semifinal run. After her fall, Boucher knew she was out of the race and crossed the finish line fourth obviously upset about missing the finals. But Sarah John, the third girl to cross the line in the semifinal heat was disqualified, bumping Boucher into the finals.”It was a really weird race for me,” Boucher said. “I can’t believe I made the podium. It’s amazing.” Kristin Hartman, a former Summit High School student and local ski racer, finished fifth Friday in only her second ever skiercross race. Hartman is a ski coach on the weekends at Beaver Creek and a civil engineer in Denver Monday through Friday.”I grew up racing against a lot of these girls, so I knew my competition was tough,” Hartman said. “I had no expectations coming in so I’m totally excited about my result today.”

For more stories on the 2005 Winter Gravity Games, visit http://www.summitdaily.com/gravitygames.Women’s skiercross results1. Brett Buckles2. Valentine Scuotto3. Sara-Maude Boucher4. Anik Demers5. Kristin Hartman

6. Suzan Dole7. Jess McMillan8. Asia Jenkins9. Erin Boucher10. Sarah John11. Phillipa HuntVail, Colorado

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