Giant slalom qualifiers a meeting of nations
VAIL — Competing against racers from small countries like Haiti, Macedonia and Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia’s Klemen Kosi won the giant slalom qualifiers Thursday at Golden Peak for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
About 100 racers in total tested their skills at the Vail venue. The top skier to finish from every country, in addition to the top 25 ski racers overall qualified for today’s World Championships giant slalom at Beaver Creek. After the first run, the top-30 racers ran the course in reverse order for the second run, before going back to the finish order of the first run for the remaining 60 or so racers to finish the first run.
The last nation to qualify a second racer was Chile, with Nicolas Carvallo’s 24th-place performance.
“I’m so happy I made it,” Carvallo said.
His teammate, 20-year-old Henrik Von Appen, was elated as well.
“I’m so happy to share the moment with this guy,” Von Appen said.
‘CHILEANS ARE ALWAYS HAPPY’
Von Appen, who crossed the finish line in first and held the lead through a few racers, received the largest ovation on the day from the 200 or so fans in attendance.
“The reason for that,” Von Appen said of the big fan celebration at his run, “is one — that Chileans are always happy and cheering no matter what the reason — and two, people love our suits.”
After the top 30 had finished and it seemed Carvallo’s top-25 result would hold, the Chileans were hesitant to celebrate.
“At the 2013 World Championships, Henrik was knocked out by the 39th racer,” Carvallo said.
When it became apparent they would both be competing in the big show on Friday, the two embraced in satisfaction.
“We go to college together, we play football together and we ski race together. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have there with me tomorrow,” Van Appen said.
For some countries, competition for the top spot was tight, regardless of those top-25 automatic advancers.
India’s team had three guys competing for one spot, “I’m just happy to be in Vail, it’s beautiful,” said Hira Lal, who finished two spots behind his teammate Arif Mohd Khan in 79th.
From Macedonia, Antonio Ristevski said he skied the best giant-slalom run he has laid down yet this season to take the top spot on his team in 36th.
Israeli ski racer Itamar Biran was the youngest competitor at 16. He finished 51st.
“We’ve received a very warm welcome from Jewish community here in the Vail Valley,” his father, Doron Biran, said from the finish stadium.
The final showdown on the day was, literally, the final showdown on the day, as Haitian ski racer Jean-Pierre Roy battled it out with the Jamaican Mike Williams for last place.
Williams’ friend, Butch Mosby, of Texas, surprised the Jamaican by showing up unannounced for his race.
“I just wanted to come support him so I did what I could to get here,” he said. “Regardless of where he’s from, I’m just impressed he’s still out here doing it in his 40s.”
Williams was excited to finish, but more excited to see Mosby.
“You just made my week,” he said to his friend upon seeing him in the finish coral.
In the end, it was Roy who took the Caribbean title on the day, beating out Williams and guaranteeing himself a spot at today’s race by finishing the race for Haiti.
“It’s amazing, first run, second run,” he said. “I will be the first in the world to participate in the World Championships as a grandfather!”
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.