Shaun Palmer | Moment in Time

Shaun Palmer’s crash at the ÅRE, Sweden, World Championships in 1999.


Words by Geoff Waugh. Photo by Geoff Waugh

For those that were there, this is perhaps the abiding memory from the 1999 Worlds from Åre far in the north of Sweden. On a blood and thunder course, made slick and treacherous by constant rain, Shaun Palmer (who at the time was setting the downhill scene on fire) was up on the clock and looking to set the fastest time by more than a few seconds. Seventh out of the start gate and sandwiched between Credric Gracia and Nico Vouilloz, Palms appeared to impervious to the pressure and the conditions and was laying down a potentially gold medal winning run.

Luckily for me, I chose to shoot around the finish arena in a position to catch riders crossing the line, recovering in the arena and, if they had a good run, sitting in the hotseat – a converted chairlift bubble.

Gracia had come and gone and the (claimed) 10,000 strong crowd were baying and cheering for the man in the gold–leaf TOLD lid and short–sleeved stars and stripes skin suit who was now on course and charging. I watched as the fans craned their necks towards the bridge–come–jump that formed the last obstacle before the finish. After the bridge was a man made berm about two feet high to slingshot racers around the final left hand bend. From my vantage point I couldn’t see either the bridge or the berm and had to rely on the commentary, the crowd noise and the direction of the crowds’ heads.

The shouts were reaching a crescendo and when I heard the horribly familiar scraping noise of metal on tarmac and BOOM! Palmer came into view on the ground sliding towards the finish line. He had lost it on the kerb and was on his arse! Initial shock wore off in a split second and I started shooting an entire sequence. On the floor, rolling onto his knees, head in hands and then getting up and dragging bike and body to the barriers.

Palmer finished seventh, 13.06 seconds down on the winner. Whether he would’ve won is conjecture. In the event his old nemesis Vouilloz claimed the prize, turning to the gathered journalists and saying, “what’s that, eight?”


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