Fiala takes second at King of Mountain event in Banff
BANFF, Alberta – Jake Fiala’s second life in ski racing is starting to take shape. Fiala, a Frisco resident who retired last spring after a decade on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, finished second at a Jeep King of the Mountain competition Sunday in Banff, Alberta. The lucrative King of the Mountain series features head-to-head racing down what is known as a “Y” course; the pseudo-skiercross discipline begins with an individual giant slalom section then pits two racers against each other on a section that includes breakneck speeds and intimidating jumps.Fiala flew to Canada for Saturday’s qualifying runs, from which he earned a berth in Sunday’s final. There, he won two straight head-to-head competitions against a pair of the world’s best racers, before falling short in the final against Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic. Fiala picked up $7,500 for his runner-up result, which came ahead of some of skiercross’ biggest names: Aspen’s Casey Puckett (third), Frenchman Enak Gavaggio (fourth), Germany’s Martin Fiala (seventh) and Austrian Isidor Gruner (eighth).
After recently securing a berth in the Winter X Games skiercross competition, to be held later this month in Aspen, Fiala boosted his chances in a big way with Sunday’s result.”It helps my confidence a lot going into the X Games,” he said.That didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous going into the final. Skiing as the No. 3 seed based on his time in a qualifying run, Fiala faced Germany’s Fiala in the quarterfinals. (Ironically, both Fialas were born in the Czech Republic and speak Czech, though Jake’s family left for America around the same time Martin’s left for Germany.)”I was worried, period,” Jake Fiala said of his psyche going into the first run. “I was joking the morning of the race that I hadn’t been that nervous since Kitzbuehel (where the legendary Hahnenkamm downhill is held), only because it’s totally new.”Martin Fiala, a former World Cup downhiller, fell during both runs (each heat’s winner is determined by the results of two runs), and Jake advanced to face the former X Games skiercross champ Gavaggio.
Gavaggio won the first run by .27 seconds, but Fiala rebounded to take the second by .34 and advance to the final. Alas, Kraus won both runs in the final – which included a timing controversy that stemmed from Fiala’s calf transponder not registering a first-run time.”That was unfortunate,” Fiala said, “but second is awesome.”Fiala had entered the first King of the Mountain event this season, in Crested Butte, but failed to qualify for the main event because he didn’t take it seriously enough.
This time, instead of traveling with an old pair of GS skis, as he did to Crested Butte, he tested 10 sets of Atomic skiercross boards during 50 runs at Keystone and Breckenridge, then benefited from the services of Breck ski tech Jonathan Weyant in Banff. Weyant works for Atomic, and also services Puckett’s skis, among other Atomic skiercross team members.The result for Fiala was a fresh outlook on a new hobby.”It’s a whole different side of skiing that I’ve never experienced,” he said. “It makes it fun again.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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