Commentary

Marte Gjefsen wins Women's Skier X

Norwegian wins final with broken right wrist, torn left thumb ligament

Originally Published: January 29, 2012
By Devon O'Neil | ESPN.com

ASPEN, Colo. -- Moments after Marte Gjefsen crossed the finish line to win her first Winter X Games gold medal Sunday, the Norwegian Skier X racer bit down on her gloves and pulled them off with her teeth. She grimaced in pain as the two casts came into view, one on each hand, the result of a horrific crash Gjefsen suffered in training just three days before.

Then the 22-year-old shrieked in jubilation and hugged her Norwegian teammate and Sunday's silver medalist, Hedda Berntsen. They remained glued to each other for 10 seconds, celebrating an improbable 1-2 finish. Not only did Gjefsen win with a broken right wrist and torn left thumb ligament that made it almost impossible to hold onto her poles, she never would have made the final were it not for another pileup in her semifinal heat that wiped out four racers and allowed her to move up from sixth to first.

Marte GjefsenJoshua Duplechian/ESPNMarte Gjefsen celebrates her Women's Skier X victory, two casts and all.

"I thought my chances were totally gone [after Thursday's high-speed crash]," Gjefsen said. "But I also knew I was good to glide. I won the qualification by almost a second [the day after her crash], so I knew I had some good chances to make some passes. But no chance to do this. I'm just so happy."

As if there weren't enough drama leading up to the final, Gjefsen narrowly avoided another high-speed crash in the six-woman medal heat when leader Marielle Thompson went down in a cloud of snow and almost took out Gjefsen, who was in second place at the time.

Gjefsen hip-checked but regained her balance and skied to gold. "I was so sure I was going the same way as Marielle, but somehow I stayed on my skis and I just kept pushing and focused on coming down the course whole," Gjefsen said.

Berntsen earned her second Winter X silver medal in four appearances. She also won silver in 2008 and again at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in ski cross, but there was no room for disappointment in her smile. "It's just great because our team has been working really hard," Berntsen said. "We didn't get funding from our national federation after the season last year, so the team just came together, we made a plan ourselves, and we worked out alone all summer. It's so great to see Marte winning because she's had so much bad luck this season, and now she broke her [wrist] three days ago. I'm super happy to be on the podium, but I really want to win something soon because I have a lot of second places."

Australia's Jenny Owens won bronze by a whisker ahead of France's Marielle Berger, who received a late entry into the final after American Langely McNeal was disqualified for wearing an elastic hair tie on the cuff of her pants. The disqualification was prompted by a protest from Berger, who claimed McNeal's hair tie allowed her an unfair aerodynamic advantage. McNeal had finished second in the same semifinal heat in which Berger placed fourth.

Sanna Luedi of Switzerland dislocated her right shoulder in a crash in the final.

Check out full results from the Women's Skier X finals.

Devon O'Neil is a freelance writer who writes for ESPN.com Action Sports.

Devon O'Neil

Writer, Action Sports
O'Neil was raised in the Virgin Islands before dropping anchor to ski, write, and combine the two for profit. He now lives in Breckenridge, Colo.