Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boardercross Beauty

Elaine Supp’s making it to the USASA National’s in boardercross is somewhere between fluke and fairytale with a dash of fate added in. For those of you paying attention to Winter in the Catskills her father is Vintage Skier Man (his superhero title) and she a snowboarder.

At the end of January she was watching the Winter X Games and in particular the boardercross and thought, hey, I could do that. Now I should add that she is a particularly excellent boarder, not one of those who goes down the hill face first perpendicular with the slope scraping off all the snow. She’s well prepared for all the jumps and obstacles the nascent sport requires thanks to Platty’s terrain.

Boardercross (and skiercross, there is a 2-planked version) is a relatively new sport. It made it to the Winter Olympics last year in part because the IOC wanted to up the youth quotient. In each heat there are 4 riders on a course at a time. They have to tackle jumps and berms and obstacles – and finish first – a bit like motocross on a snow (or ice).

As Elaine explains it, she texted her sister saying, “I’m going to try this.” Her sister understandably thought she was joking. After all, the sport is intense, competitive and dangerous – few women decide to start in their early 20s. But Elaine was undaunted. She went to the USASA website and found an event in Windham the next weekend. “I wanted to see if I could do it,” she says with a laugh.

Shockingly she won, beat all her competitors and did it again last weekend, taking gold in her category, which to make it more competitive had her racing girls in a younger age group. Now, with those two victories she’s ranked number one in the Catskills making her eligible for the Nationals in Copper Mountain Colorado this April. With the same verve and determination that got her to her first race, she’s determined to go – and because it’s such a new sport she could actually break out to the level of pro riders.

Bob Basil head of the Catskill Mountain Series of the USASA put Elaine’s win in context. “Most girls her age are pros already,” he said “but with the sport’s size and her dedication she could go forward. It’s amazing to see someone in her age group up for riding and racing girls younger than her. She’s clearly a strong athlete.” He also said that the sport itself favors athletes in their late 20s. “You’re facing downhill going fast and making on the spot decision about obstacles. That takes intellectual maturity, but few women in her age group would decide to just go out there and try this – and win. Particularly after combining her group with another age group to make it more competitive.”

For her part Elaine is still adjusting to her wins. “Everything is new, just the layout of each course, and all the kids at these events show up with a coach.” Not Elaine though. No, she dragged her boyfriend along, and he brought a backpack full of snacks. Now she’s approaching local businesses and her employer to help her make it to the Nationals. Others who want to help can make donations on Paypal and on Facebook.

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