Vail Teva Games: Sutton, Gordon take 8-ball | VailDaily.com

Vail Teva Games: Sutton, Gordon take 8-ball

TMG Raft Cross Finals 1 DT 6-7-09
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VAIL, Colorado – There is no rhyme or reason to the action on Gore Creek on the Sunday of the Teva Mountain Games.

Unlike, say, Sunday at the Masters, there is no such thing as decorum. In fact, Charles Darwin probably would have loved the Teva Mountain Games’ 8-ball and raft cross competitions Sunday.

We’re talking survival of the fittest.

“It’s just fun. It’s just getting animal, getting angry,” said Sam Sutton of New Zealand, who won the men’s 8-ball. “I like it actually. I just charge hard. We grow up on the rugby field. Everybody wants to hit everybody. This is pretty easy for us.”

Easier said than done. In the 8-ball finals, kayakers come down Gore Creek. The first one to International Bridge wins. The kicker is that other kayakers, known as 8-balls, lie in wait on the sides of the creek ready to impede anyone’s and everyone’s progress. All’s fair in love and war and 8-ball.

Over the years of this event, there have been theories on strategy. Laying back early in the race might let the 8-balls take out your competition, allowing you to slide by. Or it’s just go hard from the start.

“I think a lot of those theories have been tested and there’s just way to much randomness to go with it,” said Canada’s Ruth Gordon, who won the women’s race. “There are so many 8-balls this year, you thought that maybe the first round was going to take the people in front, but there’s always someone waiting for you.”

And while it seems that one could walk across the Gore without getting one’s feet wet because of all the traffic, this is a highlight for the Mountain Games paddlers.

“Awesome way to end things,” Gordon said. “It’s fun to have an event with all the competitors you’ve been hanging out with all week.”

Comeback kids

In the raft cross finals, more craziness ensued as Team Canoe and Kayak Magazine roared back from last place to overtake two teams from Timberline for the championship Sunday.

For the uninitiated, raft cross has no 8-balls, but the paddlers have to navigate gates down the creek which leads to the encouraged jostling of boats.

Scott Waidelich and Chris Baer seemed hopelessly behind Timberline 40 and Timberline 1. Both Timberline boats were trying to negotiate the last two gates in the shadow of International when Canoe and Kayak stormed in and plowed both rafts out of the way, a perfectly legal move.

With the Timberline rafts flushed downstream without circling the gates, Waidelich and Baer merrily paddled around the poles and claimed a win.

“Opened it up, man,” Baer said. “Both Timberline teams were fighting for the right gate and we were so far behind, we actually came in from upstream and just plowed them down. We were able to get the first gate and style the second one, boardercross-style.”

“I had no partner coming into the race and Chris stepped up to the plate and agreed to paddle with me and I’m really appreciative of that because he’s damn near one of the paddlers I’ve ever paddled with,” Waidelich said. “The Timberline boys blew some lines down low and we were able blow through.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.