Puckett sweeps 2 at Holiday Classic

John F. Russell

— Former Olympian Chris Puckett swept the last two races of the Steamboat Holiday Classic in Steamboat Springs, but the local coach doesn’t think of himself as the week’s biggest winner.

“Every one of our racers who finished moved up in the rankings,” Puckett said. “Our entire goal was to make these good races and to get as good of competition in these races as we could for our kids. I think we accomplished both goals.”

The snow and the skis were flying under a bright Yampa Valley Thursday during the final giant slalom race of the week, which was held on the Sitz/See Me ski run.

Puckett proved to be unbeatable in the giant slalom events sweeping the competition. It was the fifth and final event of the week.

The Classic opened last Sunday with the first of two slaloms events at Howelsen, which was won by Reuben Kuruvila of the University of Nevada. Steamboat’s Teddy Berglund followed suit on Monday by winning the second slalom event.

The skiers took New Year’s Day off, but returned to the slopes for a pair of giant slalom races on Wednesday and Thursday. Puckett, who just retired from the U.S. Ski Team this year, won both events and collected $600 in prize money for two days of skiing.

In Thursday’s race, U.S. Ski Team members Brett Fischer was second and Chad Wolk was third. Jakub Fiala, the week’s biggest money winner, placed fourth.

The race was also a good one for several local skiers, including Berglund who was eighth, Pete Petry who was ninth, John May who came in 10th and Drew Roberts who was 11th. Joel Adams was 16th and Linas Vaitkus was 17th..

Fiala won the overall title and pocketed an extra $500 for his efforts. The U.S. Ski team member earned the most points for the week by placing second in the first giant slalom ($200), winning an open race Wednesday night ($1000) and placing fourth in the final giant slalom race. He also earned $150 (his share) after his team won the “team title” in the open event that was also held on Wednesday night.

“The difference in the overall came down to the open race. He was able to pick up enough bonus points there to win the whole thing,” Puckett said.

Puckett, who won both giant slalom races but failed to score any points in the open race, was second in the overall standings.

For the week, Fiala pocketed $1,850 and some great prizes.

“He was really happy,” Puckett said of his former teammate. “He bet on himself in the open race and won a whole bunch of prizes.”

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