Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett are supposed to be a couple of feel-good Olympic stories — two 30-something veterans heading back to the games to give it one more shot in the crazy new freestyle sport of skicross.
After a rough week at the Winter X Games, though, it's no sure thing either man will make it to Vancouver.
Rahlves, a former Clayton resident, took a nasty tumble in a quarterfinal race Sunday in Aspen, Colo., and had to be transported to the hospital, where his dislocated right hip was popped back into place. That came two days after Puckett hit a bump awkwardly and aggravated his already injured shoulder.
Neither has been declared out for the Olympic debut of skicross, set for Feb. 21 at Cypress Mountain. But both leave the Winter X Games in worse shape than they came.
Which brings up a valid question: Should legit medal contenders in the most dangerous sports on the program be competing in an event that has no bearing on their Olympic qualifying this close to the start of the games?
"If the X Games was part of their preparation for Vancouver, so be it," said Mike English, the chief of sport performance for the USOC.
With six racers traversing a tight course with bumps, rollers and jumps, skicross — or Skier X as it's called at the X Games — is every bit as dangerous as any sport at the Olympics.
Puckett, hoping to compete at his fifth Olympics, said his injury should set back his recovery process at least a few days. He separated his shoulder in a race Jan. 13.
Rahlves, slated for his fourth Olympics, was putting pressure on the hip only hours after the accident. U.S. Ski and Snowboard officials said he was treated at a hospital and released. The doctor who treated him said the fact this is Rahlves' fourth dislocation should make the injury more manageable.
"People who have multiple hip dislocations, the tissues get so loose and go in and out and it doesn't cause so much damage," Dr. Kevin Stone said.
The Winter X Games drew 65 out of 120 athletes who qualified for the Olympics in the so-called "extreme" sports. Those athletes have a loyalty to the X Games, which helped put many of them and their sports on the map. Then, of course, there is the money. There's nearly $800,000 up for grabs for skiers and snowboarders at the X Games.
Led by Chris Del Bosco, the Canadians swept the medals in men's Skier X. Dave Duncan took second, followed by Brady Leman. On the women's side, Canada's Ashleigh McIvor finished runner-up to France's Ophelie David.
Leman was in the same heat as Rahlves but was out in front of the accident.
"I had no idea Daron went down. From what I heard, he just got tossed around a bit in there," Leman said.