Panasonic Open notebook

The Baltimore Sun

Mother Nature was the big winner at the opening of the AST Dew Tour's Panasonic Open, with wind and rain wrecking havoc on most of yesterday's action at the Camden Yards sports complex.

Only one of the five scheduled events, the skateboard park preliminary round, began on time as the weather interrupted competition all afternoon and well into the evening.

"Unfortunately, we got a little bit of rain today," said tour spokesman B.J. Carretta. Preliminary rounds that weren't completed by last night will be finished today before the gates open, he said.

The action-sports showcase, making its first appearance in Baltimore, got off to a rough start when wind gusts knocked down a 50-foot-long security fence behind the vertical ramp stage.

Security personnel and maintenance workers scrambled to get the fence back up as fans entered the grounds.

The wind refused to let up and tour organizers, fearing for the athletes' safety, decided to reschedule that event along with the freestyle motocross preliminary for later in the evening.

Those plans, and the rest of the day's schedule, were interrupted again during the skateboard park preliminaries when rain began falling.

Baltimore's Mathieu Therres was preparing for his initial run when the first drops fell. He finished his run, and the competition continued briefly, but it was suspended when the rain intensified, sending fans and competitors underneath the bleachers for shelter.

"Once these courses get a little wet, they're deadly," said Therres, who, along with Rodney Jones, represented Baltimore in the skateboard park competition.

Their event resumed late last night, with Therres advancing to the finals.

The tour, in its third year, is making its 2007 debut with the Baltimore event, and organizers remained upbeat despite yesterday's weather problems.

"We're disappointed that the weather didn't cooperate," said AST president Wade Martin. "We will still be in great shape, though."

Hometown pair

With the popularity of action sports growing, a couple of lesser- known skaters are promoting Baltimore's role.

Jones, 28, and Therres, 21, both of Dundalk, are looking to follow in superstar Bucky Lasek's footsteps in furthering the city's skateboard presence.

"We've always had a good scene," said Jones, who has been skating competitively since he was 13 and has traveled widely overseas for competitions. "Finally, the public is accepting it more, and we actually have more facilities to go to."

Therres, who has been skating professionally for five years, agreed, saying, "Cops don't mess with you too much [anymore]."

The increased interest in action sports can be attributed in part to their allure as individual activities for kids who don't want to play team sports. In Baltimore, for Jones and Therres, it was no different.

"You don't need anybody to go skateboarding," Jones said. "You just grab your board and go."

Like Jones, Therres was exposed to skating early and loves the individuality that skateboarding offers, adding that he enjoys the thrill of skating unique courses more than he does competing.

Both skaters credited Lasek with putting Baltimore on the action- sports map.

"He's done a lot for us," said Jones. "People recognize Baltimore because Bucky is always talking about it."

Therres, who has only been skating competitively for five years, noted the importance of having the AST Dew Tour in Baltimore, saying the city is distinguishing itself from its neighbors in Philadelphia and Washington.

"It shows that Baltimore can hold its own" as a skating town, he said.

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