Hayler forced to settle for 7th
16 February 2006
Damon Hayler had to settle for 7th place in the snowboard cross after being forced off the course in the semi-final at Bardonecchia.
Coming into a turn at the top of the course, his line was blocked, forcing him to miss a gate and the 29-year-old was disqualified for failing to complete the course.
“He (Canada’s Jasey Jay Anderson) came from the very far right lane and cut down really low on the corner which hit the person next to me. He hit me and there was no chance of me making the corner. I had to go around the other side of the gate and straight away that was it,” Hayler said.
A disappointed Hayler then had to backup again in the classification race to determine 5th to 8th positions. He finished a creditable third, to be 7th overall.
“I’m a bit devastated that’s the way it turned out because I just knew I could have pulled out a medal if I had made the final,” Hayler said.
For American Seth Westcott it was a special moment in sporting history – winning the sport’s first-ever Olympic gold medal.
In a thrilling finish, Westcott just edged out Slovakia’s Radoslav Zidek by half a board length. Paul-Henri Delerue of France was a distant third.
Hayler, who was 12th fastest after qualifying, won his opening round of 16 race over Switzerland’s Ueli Kestenholz with French medal favourite, Xavier Delerue eliminated.
In the quarter-final, the rider from Sydney’s northern beaches finished 2nd behind Anderson.
In a dramatic turn of events, Anderson was disqualified in the semi-final not for the Hayler incident, but for pushing another rider in the back.
“I was riding really well through the finals and I really think I could have done a bit better,” Hayler said.
“I was riding really fast. The wax was just awesome it was perfect. Really all-in-all I had a great day and I can’t complain too much.”
Hayler’s previous best results were a bronze at the World Cup in Saas-Fee, Switzerland last October and 10th place in a World Cup in Austria last month.
He is already looking forward. “I’m going to go to Austria and ride some powder and I’ll have a smile on my face.”
Australia’s Emily Thomas competes in the qualifying round of the women’s snowboard cross on 17 February (Day 7).