Jacksons rule on Gore Creek
VAIL – It’s a world gone Jackson when it comes to freestyle kayaking, and we’re not talking Tito, Jermaine or Janet.More like M.J. and E.J. Emily Jackson, 16, knocked off Nikki Kelly in one finals heat for her second consecutive women’s kayak rodeo gold Saturday at the Teva Mountain Games, and then she had to wait for her dad, Eric, in the men’s competition.”It was completely nerve-racking, especially because my dad was in it,” Emily said. “‘Can he do it? Can he do it?”Yes, he could. Eric Jackson outdueled Stephen Wright in a dramatic showdown an hour later to make it a family sweep of the rodeo for the second consecutive year.”Unbelievable. You can’t obviously improve on that, right? So it’s a unique feeling coming in knowing last year we both won this event,” Dad said. “‘I wonder if I can repeat it or wonder if she could do it.’ We didn’t really play it that way. We knew we had a clean slate.”
Duel in the GoreJackson’s second consecutive title wasn’t as easy as last year. Wright gave Jackson all he could handle in the finals, throwing down a 132-point routine in his second run to take the lead. Wright, competing in front of his mom, Bonnie, for the first time, scored major points for amplitude on his loops, wowed the judges with space Godzillas and even threw in a phonics monkey for good measure.”I got a phonics monkey, which no one else got,” said Wright, who won the big trick competition Thursday. “I did some big loops, space Godzillas and a lunar orbit and a McNasty and just ended up amping it up to 132. I made Eric beat me.”His 132 points were a full 20 points better than Jackson’s winning score last year. What’s more, a little miscommunication led to some drama on the banks of the Gore.According to the defending champ, Wright told Jackson that his second run was two points lower than Jackson’s first. That would have meant that Jackson had clinched the title and rendered his second run essentially a victory lap.But when Wright’s official score of 132 came out, Jackson found himself trailing by three.
“All of a sudden it was like, ‘Wait, hold on a second. We’ve got game on.’ It was just way better,” Jackson said. “It just extended the suspense and the competition. My favorite thing in the world is to know I have to do really good to win. … I had to have my best ride of the competition to win.”And as is becoming a rite of spring, Jackson did just that. He nailed his entry move and the ensuing lunar orbit. Sticking those two moves, he said, got him in the groove and boosted his confidence. What followed was a staggering array of loops, space Godzillas, McNasties and cartwheels. In piling up 143 points, Jackson stayed in the hole and awed the crowd with his assortment, finishing with a plant at the base of International Bridge.”It even came down to where I did all the moves I planned on doing and had time left because I hadn’t flushed (out of the hole),” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what to do, so I just went for the bridge.””I’m psyched,” said Wright, who was not disappointed with second. “Eric went out there and beat me fair and square. He put together the best run of the event. It was awesome to watch.”‘Dialed in’
Emily Jackson preceded her father with title No. 2. In no way cowed by more veteran competition, she told herself before her first run, “Have fun. Do what you know how to do.”She started with a space Godzilla and ended with an emphatic McNasty. In between, she powered her loops to perfection.”I think air loops are one of the key moves,” Jackson said. “I’m really lucky. I have that dialed in pretty well. That’s just what works for me.”And when you’re 16, back-to-back Teva Mountain Games gold is a confidence booster.”It’s so awesome. I’m so happy. Now I get to say ‘two times,'” she said while holding her Dalmatian, Roxie, who could well be in herself in a few years the way the Jacksons are going. “It really makes me feel like I’m good, keeping it going. I’m getting better.”Jackson beat out a game effort by Kelly, the Games’ extreme creek champ, on Thursday.”It’s another great day of competition,” Kelly said. “Vail’s always a good time. I especially liked today because I don’t always do well in freestyle. I was really happy.”
After a strong first run, Kelly couldn’t hold the hole in her second run, giving the title to Jackson.”I didn’t really think I was going to top my first run, so I was trying, but I had a very good first run,” Kelly said. “That was the best I could do. Emily is definitely the winner, and I’m stoked she won.”Devon Barker took bronze for the women, while Jay Kincaid was third in the men’s finals.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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