PHOTOS: CESCHINI GERSON ARRIVAL After about a 10 hour flight from JFK airport in New York City, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro a bit tired but more anxious because I was about to be part of one of downhill skatings most elite races. I am very fortunate to have a residence in the State of Rio in the beautiful mountain top city of Petropolis so I was able to rest a little before my drive to the city of Nova Lima. The 2017 APAC WC was only a five hour drive away through some of the most beautiful regions of Minas Gerais. Minas, as it is commonly referred , has a never ending landscape of hills and valleys covered in green fauna, palms and trees I would never be able to identify. Its beauty is only surpassed by its long winding roads, steep grades, long sweeps and short banking turns with deep drops, a paradise for any downhiller. As I neared closer, In the distance was what appeared to be the magical city of OZ was actually the bustling city of Belo Horizonte which is the neighboring city of Nova Lima which gave clue we had arrived.Kassy Jhones (center) takes in a run. CHECK-INWe checked in to the Alamanda Pousada which was recommended to everyone on the IDF- (International Downhill Federation) registration site by Matheus Felicio ( the IDF event organizer). Since this was my first event I could not believe that the accommodations were so top notch, I mean this place was beautiful. A large well manicured grounds with a pool and several semi natural stone fountains. I could go on about the Pousada but we are here for the race. Not long after check in I ran into Will Stephenson, currently ranked #3 in the world for DH luge, we had a brief discussion about the industry and agreed to meet for dinner with Ryan Farmer (ranked #1 for DH luge) and Jeff Suchy (ranked #5). Needless to say there was a lot of fast guys staying at the Alamanda. The finals with Guto Negão, Tiago Mohr and Silon Garcia. We all later met at a restaurant next door named Mata for drinks and dinner. They had live music and an open mic so after some more drinks and a few shots of Cachasa (a brazilian specialty) Ryan Farmer and myself were called to the stage to perform. Im told we did surprisingly well, however, i hope theres no video evidence. Its been a while since I performed. After that I called it a night, I needed to get my beauty sleep for the big day. I don’t have much beauty so i needed to get as much sleep as possible. REGISTRATION and QUALIFYINGThe following morning was registration day where everyone could get in some practice runs and get familiar with the hill. It was everthing Matheus Felicio said it would be; fast drops, fast sweeping turns and a very technical chicane at the finish surrounded by the beauty of Nova Lima, Brazil. The weather was a plus, beautiful blue skies and summer like conditions made for a unforgettable and most desirable experience for the awestruck athletes. As the athletes lined up to register, Federico Barbezio and Cyrille Harnay, aka Koma Kino, held court with Matheus Felicio to reiterate the rules and importance of respect on the hill while distributing transponders. I was certainly impressed with the professionalism and organizational skills of the event. Logos of sponsors were well draped along the chicane and other key sweeps, hay bails were neatly positioned, emergency care was on stand by, plenty of temporary bathroom facilities, local police maintained traffic safety and it was clearly obvious the city supported the event. Willian Rubim, Daniel Engel, Weyder and Nascimento Lourenço. The son of the Mayor of Nova Lima, Gabriel Pedrosa, was a huge factor in helping some last minute details. He provided landscapers to clear more spectator space, brought in city trucks to hose down and sweep the course, made a larger bus available for the athletes and stayed all 3 days for the event. It was a pleasure to befriend such an advocate of the skating community. As the athletes got their runs in you could feel the energy build as each run got better then the last. As old friends got reacquainted, new friendships were being forged. It didn’t matter if you were ranked #1 or a fist time competitor like myself, everyone seemed to be on the same plane just mixing it up and giving each other advice to get ready for qualifying runs. RACE DAYAfter all the niceties and politeness of qualifying day their was a sudden shift of consciousness. Just as fast as a skater can go down a hill the focus changed to the realization that this is a race and only the best would make it to the podium. So as the day commenced after some practice runs the real fun began. Everybody crowded to view the heat chart and the official races were on. As the day moved forward and races commenced each time the racers crossed the finish line the first two would advance and the other two would fall. The energy was palpable as each heat progressed towards the finals. Aaron Hampshire and Daina Banks FINALSAs expected, APAC would not disappoint with regards to excitement and drama. Some of the worlds best DH athletes such as Carlos Paixoa (BR), Thiago Lessa (BR), Aaron Hampshire (USA), Daniel Engel (USA), Daina Banks (USA) and Douglas Dalua Silva (BR) just to name a few were about to go head to head on one of Brazil’s most notable courses. In the end though, the Brazilians owned the day on their home turf but not without the Americans giving them a run for their money with a spectacular demonstration of competition. The final races for board and luge were equally exciting. It came down to the final bends at the chicane to decide the winners. Aaron Hampshire, Daina Banks, Yan Bertinati, Keenan McCartney, Jeremias Gasparotto, and Pepe Laporte In luge, Will Stephenson held the lead with Ryan Farmer closely drafting up to the winding chicane where he executed a brilliant maneuver to pass the powerful titan from Great Britain. It was hair raising to say the least. The finals for the women’s DH longboard was also equally exciting. Upon entry to the chicane Luana Campos and Melissa Brogni were neck and neck until Brogni took a tighter entry to the final bend to sweep the win. Having registered to compete for the Masters, I was not able to have an accurate account of this event or the Juniors, as I was suited up and at the top of the hill at the starting line. All results could be found on the IDF web page. The ladies division: 1st Melissa Brogni, 2nd Luana Campos, and 3rd Luana Chaves. MAIN EVENTThe final event of the day proved to be everything the spectators wanted. After taking the Qualifying rounds the final four would be the Brazilian armada; Thiago Lessa, Carlo Paixao, Pepe LaPorte and Douglas Dalua Silva. This race was nothing short of a hair raising drama right up to the finish line, it was absolutely incredible from the very start. Paixao and Dalua pulled a lead off the push until the sweeping drop at the top of the course where Lessa made his move after drafting and held the lead till the finish. It wasn’t until the famous chicane where the drama of who would place and show unfolded. At the entry of the chicane it was Lessa, Dalua, Paixao and LaPorte. Mid stream before the final hard left all riders drifted together very tightly, the roar of the crowd was testament to the excitement of the moment when suddenly in the final left, approximately 20 meters from the finish, Paixao brilliantly leaned left to pass Dalua followed by LaPorte who executed an amazing pre-drift allowing him to have enough speed to take third place. This was one of the tightest and most beautifully orchestrated demonstration of DH that I’ve ever seen and it was clear by the roar of the crowd that we all witnessed an incredible moment of DH sports history.Adriano Silveira was delighted with his performance! I was honored and humbled to be part of such an amazing event. There was such a positive vibe in the air for the entire event that no-one could deny it. This sport, while dangerous and extreme, separates itself from others by its incredible sense of comradery coupled with the spirit of intense competition. At the end of the day we were all arm in arm with big smiles celebrating for the victors and encouraging the others for the next event. I will never know what intangible force guided me to this community but I am grateful and fortunate to have been so lucky. Congratulations to all the athletes, the choice to compete is what makes us all winners.