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In the two World Cup events he entered last year, he registered the third-fastest times in qualifying runs.
But the real crux of cross is the very unalpine first few seconds—the mayhem that ensues when four guys bust out of the gate. The start is cross at its warrior-mentality best: a frantic flurry of poling, flying elbows, the metallic staccato of skis whacking against one another and the occasional full-body smackdown. Too often, Rahlves has found himself sucking the exhaust of bigger guys muscling their way to the front. And trying to play catch-up, heat after heat, is ultimately a losing proposition in cross.
That’s why Rahlves has been working on an upper-body strength—pull-ups with an extra 45 pounds, for example—that might have been excessive for alpine racing but is necessary for powerful poling out of the start.
Maybe that strength will steer him through those few seconds of mayhem and onto his first Olympic podium.
He claims the Olympics don’t matter that much. He says he’s doing ski cross just for the fun of it—“rocketing out of the gate and taking those berms, turns and airs in pursuit of fun and a good battle.” Maybe so, but the Olympic downplay doesn’t sound entirely convincing. Who wouldn’t want an Olympic medal, especially a guy still without one but so deserving? It sure would be a nice thing for the old man to show off to those twins back home.