Vail Teva Games: Stephen has the Wright stuff
VAIL – Stephen Wright got some serious air on thr first flip of his first run in Saturday’s men’s kayak freestyle finals at the Teva Mountain Games.
It was the sort of elevation where time stops still and one imagines Wright taking a little timeout in the middle of the competition to spend some time with a good book or, maybe, order a pizza.
“Mostly, I was just thinking, ‘This is so fun,”‘ Wright said.
Wright finally splashed down to some major oohing and aahing from the crowd assembled around Gore Creek and continued paddling his way to his first freestyle win at the Teva Games.
He logged a whopping 1.310 points, which turned out to be just enough to hold off a late charge from Nick Troutman (1.295). Meanwhile, Dustin Urban, the defending champ, took third with 1,040 points.
“It was challenging to be consistent,” Wright said. “It could have been anyone’s game with Nick and Dustin and Andrew (Holcombe). Anyone could have walked away with it. It’s feels great to finally win it. They’ve got a great feature here. There were a lot of people out here on a nice sunny day. It just feels really good.”
While most will remember Wright’s opening flip, he followed his game plan to perfection. He pulled off the McNasty (a 180-degree turn into a loop), the phonyx monkey (a 360 into a loops) and a lunar orbit (a pirouette of the stern followed by two loops). Then he followed the airwheels and the cartwheels and Wright was off to the top step of the podium and well-deserved filet steak cooked medium.
Troutman almost wrecked that steak dinner with his third run – the highest score of any of the three tries in the finals counted as a paddler’s score. Troutman got in his own McNasty, along with a phonyx monkey and a lunar orbit, but he just couldn’t quite match Wright move-for-move this time.
The kayaking continues today with the 8-ball competition at 2:30 p.m.
“I’m going to volunteer to help run the 8-ball race. I like my kayaking to not involve people trying to kill me,” Wright said with a laugh.
E.J. reigns again
How is Emily Jackson only 19?
“Because I was born in 1990,” she replied directly Saturday.
Since Saturday was her fifth consecutive freestyle kayak win at the Teva Games, one figures she’s got to be at least in her mid-20s.
“Just practice, practice, practice,” Jackson said, making some wonder if Carnegie Hall is her next destination. “A lot of the girls out here really raised the bar out here. The scores were huge. For me it’s just about staying one step ahead. If they’re learning their phonyxes, I have to know my phonyx.”
She had her phonyx monkey down, as well as her McNasty and her space Godzilla. She put down a 515-point run in her first go, which was enough for the win. Tanya Faux took second with 470, followed by Ruth Gordon (310). Jackson kept getting better, putting upper higher-scoring runs as the afternoon went on.
With the crown already clinched, her third run of the day was a victory lap, but the 19-year-old turned in 630 points for good measure.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.