Racing in Heat 2, Australian hope Scott Kneller had a slow start but positioned himself well in the field looking for opportunities to pass before crashing halfway through the race on a tight turn.
Kneller recovered to finish the race in third place, but with only two out of each heat going through to the next stage, his Sochi Olympic campaign was over. Earlier in the day he was ranked 24th after the seeding run.
Just competing at these Games is an achievement for the 24-year-old, after a serious training crash in December.
He spent three days in hospital with concussion and four broken vertebra and after intense treatment and gym work passed a medical test to take part in the event last Monday.
“The backs feeling good actually,” Kneller, who placed seventh at the event’s Olympic debut in 2010, said.
“It was a bit sore but nothing crazy, just to be able to come out and do that is incredible. I’m feeling all right and just happy to be here.
“I thought I skied pretty well and I was competitive it was tough being behind. I had speed but you couldn’t pass in the soft snow. It made it a little bit challenging to be behind and I had a shocking start but I can walk away from this one with a smile on my face.”
Teammate Grimus took to the course following Kneller in Heat 3.
After kicking off the day with a blistering seeding run where he placed 5th out of the 31 competitors, Grimus had a slow start on the track.
The Victorian’s Olympic debut then came unstuck with a crash towards the end of the twisty obstacle course, finishing the heat in fourth place.
The 23-year-old said the sport was unpredictable.
“I got out to a shocker start and then look I fought back and the top I probably went a bit too soon and then down the bottom at the first cut-out I sort of made my move and they made their move back,” he said.
“That’s Ski Cross really. You can’t win everything.”
Grimus said Australian women’s Ski Cross competitors Jenny Owens, Sami Kennedy-Sim and Katya Crema, could learn from the men’s mistakes on the course.
“It’s a tough track out there and everything’s possible. I’m not sure what the conditions are doing but they can gauge a lot out of the race today,” he said.
“Good jumps ... it was fun, really fun.”
For Kneller, competing in a sport he loves, at the Olympics was enough.
“It was such a big achievement for me to come here and be semi-competitive,” he said.
“It’s just unfortunate it didn’t pay out in the end.
“I gave it a red hot go and just juiced it a little far on that bottom triple.
“I had a great time and it’s just good to be here and skiing in the sunshine and doing what I love it’s good times.”
For now, Kneller is headed back to the University of New South Wales to finish his Engineering/Commerce degree.
“My body needs a rest. It’s been a pretty intense couple of months. I could do with a bit of R and R,” he said.
“We’ll just see where things take me but I’m going to take a break from skier cross for a while. So it should be good.”
For Grimus, two years worth of bushy beard will be getting the shave on Saturday, raising money for the Rob Kneller Foundation.
The Foundation was set up by Scott Kneller and his brother Luke, in memory of their father Rob, who passed away in April.
The aim is to provide young children in their home town of Jindabyne, NSW, the chance to take up Skiing.
Grimus has already raised about $14,000 and said he’s already given the honour of shaving it to his ski technician Marcus Ruiz-Navarro.
“He does a good job with my skis. He makes those edges sharp ... I can trust him for sure.”
Kneller said he was looking forward to seeing a shaven Grimus.
“It’s just unreal I can’t thank him enough for that, it’s quite incredible with his generosity. I’m looking forward to it I haven’t seen him without his beard for quite some time. He’ll be like a totally different man!”
The women’s Ski Cross will be held on Day 14 of the Olympics, with seeding starting at 18:45 (AEDT).
Annie Kearney | sochi2014.olympics.com.au