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Skiing with a heavy heart

Local skier cruises despite tragedy

— Routt County’s Tim Magill admits that in order to break 200 kilometers an hour on skis, you have to be able to “ski without abandon and do everything right.”

Unfortunately, the speed skier wasn’t able to fully let go and get the results he was hoping for in his recent trip to Europe, one that featured 18 days of speed skiing and a 20th-place finish at the 2007 FIS World Speed Ski Championships, in Verbier, Switzerland.

But Magill realized he was skiing with the “reins tightened up,” by having to compete in the championships with a heavy heart.



On April 15, the day before his worlds qualification run, a tragedy occurred as Magill participated in the final day of racing at a World Pro event in Les Arcs, France.

Magill had on his rubber suit and 238-centimeter race skis, waiting for his semifinal run after closing in 2 km off the fastest time of 220 kph. He had waited two days while high winds had postponed the run. In that time, the course was groomed, hardened and regroomed to fast snow that Magill compared to ball bearings and thought was ripe for a new world record to be set on.



But then a British forerunner named Caitlin Tovar, who was a few spots ahead of Magill at the start, took a misstep out of the gate and slid down the top of the 70-degree slope into the protective gate.

“She got in trouble, was sliding about 3 miles an hour backward, hit the net and it took her skis off, but then she got loose and slid faster,” Magill said of what sent Tovar into a bump that ran adjacent to the course. “She slid about 2,000 meters and never regained consciousness – if she was conscious, she probably could have stopped herself, but that rubber suit is as slick as an inner tube.”

British news sources reported Tovar’s helmet had flown off during the accident and that, after she was airlifted from Les Arcs to Grenoble, she died days later from head injuries.

Magill called the incident a freak accident. Tovar recently celebrated her 32nd birthday by unofficially breaking the speed record for a British female. Magill, who had developed a friendship with Tovar and lent her a race suit to help her learn the sport, had gone out with Tovar to celebrate the birthday and race time.

Having to deal with “every emotion,” a sullen Magill gathered himself for the worlds, “because the only thing I could think to do was to keep on skiing – that’s what she would’ve wanted.”

On the steep Verbier course, Magill missed the finals by 3/10 of a second. He hit 189.17 kph, the third fastest American time, behind Simone Origone – the current world record holder – who won with a time of 216.89.

Magill finished the trip with a competition at the Speed Masters Pro, an invitational event where he skied “out of the top” of the Verbier course and finished 13th at 205 kph, his personal best on the course.

“It was tough to ski fast and still deal with uncontrollable sadness,” said Magill, who has reflected on the loss, the accepted risks of the sport and his own improvement, moving steadily to within a couple kilometers of the world’s best.

– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com


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