Vail Teva Games: Mansfield, Dawson survive the 8-ball |

Vail Teva Games: Mansfield, Dawson survive the 8-ball

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VAIL – Yes, the traffic in Los Angeles is ridiculous. Denver isn’t a treat either.

But try Gore Creek on Sunday on the Teva Mountain Games. Good luck.

Theoretically, there are only meant to be eight 8-balls, kayakers whose sole purpose in this event is to impede the racers’ progress, on the river. But really, the first rule of 8-ball kayaking is that there are no rules.

Just about any kayaker not racing the 8-ball race was an 8-ball. And the 8-balls weren’t limited to kayaks. There were at least two rafts in this “kayak” race.

“The rafts are no worse than the two-man kayaks,” said Nicole Mansfield of Buffalo, N.Y. “It makes it more entertaining.”

Mansfield can laugh about it because she ended up on top, surviving the morass of kayaks and other water craft to win the women’s 8-ball, while New Zealand’s Mike Dawson came out on top for the men.

The 8-ball event wraps a week of serious paddling events on a light note at the Mountain Games, but there are still strategies. Does one hang back and let the 8-balls wipe out the rest of the field or do you just try to speed past said menaces?

“My quote-unquote strategy on that was pretty much to paddle hard,” Mansfield said. “Sometimes, you’re ahead and you get creamed and you stay ahead. Wherever I started, I was going to keep paddling hard.”

“My strategy is just to go hard,” Dawson said. “Once I had a bit of speed on the boat, it was going to be a bit harder to stop. It seemed to work.”

Dawson did get creamed with about 30 yards to go. He seemed to go underwater, but still got himself upright and captured book-end Teva gold medals. The New Zealander also was victorious in Thursday’s men’s steep-creek championship.

“I love this kind of racing,” Dawson said. “We have people coming from everywhere. In New Zealand we have a lot of races like this where you have 70 or 80 people starting at the top of the river at the same time. It’s just just a free-for-all – paddles, boats, blood. That’s why the Kiwis were on top.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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