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Tahoe athletes extremely good at X Games

Highlighted by Shaun Palmer’s three-peat gold medal in the boarder X gold medal, Lake Tahoe area athletes won six medals this past weekend at the Winter X Games in Crested Butte, Colo.

Palmer demonstrated his diversity by winning his third consecutive gold medal in the boarder X after finishing a surprising sixth in the skier X.

Despite laying off competitive skiing since his teens, the 30-year-old Palmer took the skier X course by storm, outrunning such experienced lifetime skiers as Rob Boyd, Jeremy Nobis, Shane McConkey and Seth Morrison while cruising to quarterfinal and semifinal heat victories.



However, “Palm” caught a tip coming out of the starting gate in the finals and never recovered en route to sixth place out of six competitors.

Frenchman Enak Gavaggio earned the gold medal, with McConkey taking silver.




“I was pretty bummed out that I didn’t win skier cross, so I had to come out here for some redemption,” said referring to his domain – the boarder X. “My tip got caught on a rip in the astroturf and I had trouble getting out of it. Going into the final I thought I would be able to win. But I don’t want to protest (to the X Games officials) about (the astroturf rip). That’s sissy (stuff).”

After exchanging some trash talk with snowboard legend Terje Haakonsen during his quarterfinal and semifinal heat victories, Palmer held off a late charge by Drew Neilson to secure his third straight gold medal in snowboarder X. Palmer’s winning time of 43.194 seconds edged Neilson at 44.603.

“I got the start and beat everybody out of the gates. I just rode that lead out to the end,” Palmer said.

Meanwhile, Haakonsen, who prepped for the Games at Sierra-at-Tahoe last week, was second to Palmer in the quarterfinals, fourth in the semifinals and fifth in the consolation race, leaving him 11th overall.

In his lofty bid to capture an unprecedented four gold medals, Palmer crashed in the biker X finals last Thursday and finished 14th and made it a far as the semifinals in his newest event – the snocross.

“It was all right. It could’ve been better, though,” Palmer said of his overall performance. “I think I have a real good chance at three golds next year in boarder X, biker X and skier X. I just want to go out and try to get as many medals as I can.”

Unlike past Games, Palmer, who wore a gold outfit and crown while accepting his boarder X gold medal, had plenty of lake-wide company on the podium.

Bryce Raney of Tahoe City nearly won the gold in the skiboarding triple air, earning bronze after Mike Nick of Guilderland, N.Y., edged him out for silver because of a better second-run score. Both skiers had overall scores of 73.00. Chris Hawks of Breckenridge, Colo., posted a winning score of 73.25.

Lake Tahoe athletes dominated the men’s snowboarding slopestyle event, with Kevin Jones, Jimmy Halopoff and Jim Rippey taking second through fourth places. Peter Line of Kirkland, Wash., won the gold.

Squaw Valley’s Darian Boyle, a former fashion model, modeled a silver medal on the podium in the inaugural women’s skier X.

“It was the best course ever,” said Boyle, who was second to Aleisha Cline of Santa Barbara. “It was a fun, exciting race and we all had a great time competing.”

McConkey’s return to gate racing in the skier X event was an unexpected success.

“I haven’t raced or trained gates in 10 years and to place second at X Games behind (Gavaggio) is one of the coolest things ever,” McConkey said. Gavaggio is a retired world-class French downhiller and former national team member.

Andy Hare of Truckee finished just out of the medals in fourth place.

ESPN Productions and ESPN Internet Ventures contributed to this story.

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