China set to host the first ever freeski World Cup competition
Secret Garden (CHN) - This week, for the first time ever, FIS Freeski World Cup will bring the action to China, with halfpipe competition coming to the future Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games venue at Secret Garden Resort from 20-22 December.
With qualifiers going down on Wednesday, 20 December, and finals slated for Friday, 22 December, the halfpipe athletes on hand will be the second set of competitors in as many weeks to get to test out the newest venue on the World Cup circuit, after a highly successful aerials event held at Secret Garden this past weekend.
Friday’s competition will be the third halfpipe World Cup of 2017/18, after an August event in Cordrona (NZL) got the season underway, and after a hugely entertaining competition two weekends ago at Copper Mountain (USA) kicked things into gear for winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
While France’s Marie Martinod and the USA’s Alex Ferreira lead the respective ladies’ and men’s halfpipe World Cup rankings after those two events. However, with several of the top-ranked athletes sitting out the first-ever Chinese halfpipe World Cup, the Secret Garden competition will be a chance for some lesser-known skiers to step up and score some valuable points ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games which are coming up this February in Korea.
On the ladies’ side, look for Sabrina Cakmakli (GER) to add to her single previous World Cup podium after starting the season off with an eighth-place result at Copper earlier this month.
But perhaps the most exciting athlete to watch in Secret Garden will be rising Chinese star Zhang Kexin, who at just 15 years old scored her first career podium at Copper Mountain in just her second career World Cup competition. With that podium to go along with a top-10 result in her first event at Cardrona, Zhang is quickly building a reputation as potential force in the halfpipe world.
Over on the men’s side look for Thomas Krief (FRA) to come gunning for his first career World Cup podium since 2015 when he finished second in Cardrona, sweeping the podium for France along with his fellow teammates Kevin Rolland and Ben Valentin. After missing out most of the last season due to an acl injury, Krief is finally back in the game and ready to make some noise in China.
Andreas Gohl and Marco Ladner, a pair of Austrian World Cup veterans who have as yet been held from the podium to this point in their careers, will be looking to rectify that situation this week, as will the likes of Peter Speight and Murray Buchan of Great Britain.
Last, but not least representing Swiss Freeski Team Joel Gisler will be also looking to finally grab a spot on the World Cup podium. And with some solid top 10 results on tour last year, Gisler has all it takes to bring back home a piece of shiny silverware.
It’s really anyone’s contest to win this week in Secret Garden, and any points scored by the athletes on hand will go that much further towards granting these hopefuls a shot once the big show in Korea rolls around at PyeongChang 2018 this February. With the sun out and scheduled to shine for the coming days over the perfect pipe at Secret Garden, it should be a fun competition to watch come Friday.
- Secret Garden halfpipe World Cup data page
- Competition program
- Ladies' qualification start list
- Men's qualification start list
TV BROADCAST SCHEDULE (FINALS)
Australia/Asia - Eurosport
China - CCTV 5
France, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg - SFR 3
Korea - SBS
USA - live-stream on nbcsports.com