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Norton breaks through to win dual slalom

five-time women's winner Kintner blasts competition down the hill once again

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It didn't matter whether he was north or south, Dakotah Norton had no trouble with either lane in the Giant Dual Slalom.

Norton was the breakout star of Crankworx 2015, hitting two podiums, including taking his first Crankworx gold on Friday, Aug. 13.

One night after making his first top-three in the pump track event, the Michigander took gold in his specialty event, the dual slalom, by bypassing 31 other riders.

"I didn't think it was going to happen. These guys told me that maybe we'd be spraying some champagne after practice, but I really didn't think it'd happen," he said. "To actually force it and put down some solid laps and take a victory away is excellent."

In the first run of the two-run final, Norton's opponent, Belgian Martin Maes, crashed late in the race and Norton cruised in for the win. With an injured shoulder, Maes couldn't take part in the second run and Norton paraded down the slope for the easy win.

Maes, who was first in qualifying, said the corner was loose, and he was racing faster in the final. It was a recipe for disaster.

"I'm pretty stoked with the second place, but when you're racing in the final, you always want to get first place," he said. "I crashed on the last corner. I was probably a little bit too fast, but I've got no regrets."

Norton said beating Kyle Strait was a major moment for him, as Strait had gotten the best of him in the past. He said once he got past the 2011 bronze medallist, he knew he could be on the road to something special.

"To win a high-level slalom race is one of the greatest things. It's something I've worked at for the longest time, and for it to finally happen, it's been a long time coming for me," he said.

Norton, who qualified seventh, acknowledged he didn't know exactly where he stood coming into the big show in Whistler for the first time, but after gaining momentum in the pump track, he carried it up the hill later on. He lost just once in 10 runs down the hill.

"You see everybody else race and everybody else looks fast, but you never know what you look like, so to qualify well today, to have a good race last night, it was pretty excellent to get it done," he said. "I felt like I could after that."

As someone from the Midwest, Norton said the courses with which he's familiar aren't like the ones he raced on here. He made the most of it, though.

"It's always raining and it's always muddy (in Michigan). We don't get to ride this blown-out West Coast dirt much," he said. "It didn't really suit me the first few rounds. It was a struggle at the end."

On the women's side, American Jill Kintner cruised to her third win in as many days, blasting past Dutch rider Anneke Beerten in the final, a day after downing her in the pump track final.

Kintner, emerging from the eight-woman field, said slalom is her favourite discipline, and she made the most of the event she'd been eager for all week, capturing it for the fifth time.

"The track's pretty fun. It's a little bit more technical than they usually have, so it played to my favour," she said.

In six races, Kintner suffered just a single defeat, with Tracey Hannah getting her by nine-hundredths of a second. Though she was a little surprised Hannah got her, Kintner said it wasn't too much of a concern in the grand scheme.

"I know how to manage these races pretty well, when to push and when to conserve a little bit," she said. "It's a whole week of trying to fit everything in so when you're in the final, you're calm when it matters."

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