2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season recap

18 April 2017 08:22
Victor Oehling Norberg and Sandra Naeslund
Victor Oehling Norberg and Sandra Naeslund -
GEPA Pictures

It was another remarkable season on the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup in 2016/17, with the level of drama, competition, and excitement elevated to a new level. 

Beginning with December’s Cross Alps Tour and carrying on through a European, Scandinavian, Russian, and North American whirlwind in the New Year before finally culminating at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships in Spain.

Here we look back at some of the biggest stories of the year…

Top Athletes

2016/17 will be remembered as the year France’s Jean Frederic Chapuis won his third-straight ski cross crystal globe, becoming the first man to accomplish the feat and moving to within one title of tying the great Tomas Kraus (CZE) for the most men’s globe wins of all time. 

While Chapuis’ 2016/17 season was slightly less dominant than the others of his three-peat, he was still able to wrap things up handily enough that he could sit out the final event of the season due to injury without fear of being caught by runner-up Brady Leman (CAN).

With four victories on the season, six total podiums, and only two finishes outside the top-10, Chapuis earned 763 points in 13 competitions, putting him 42 points ahead of Leman in the final count. With Leman racking up seven podiums on the season - including victories in two of the final three competitions, the stage has been set for another epic showdown between the two top competitors next season.

Over on the ladies’ side it was Marielle Thompson taking her third crystal globe in seven seasons on the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup, winning it with an incredible final tally of 965 points after 14 competitions. 

Aside from a DNF under strange circumstances in Feldberg (GER), Thompson did not finish lower than fifth all season, racking up seven wins and one runner-up result over the course of the campaign. In fact, if you trace back Thompson’s history over the past several seasons, you’ll find that the last time she finished outside of the top-10 was on February 3, 2013, over four years ago.  

After this season, Thompson now has 20 career victories, putting her just six wins back of the great Ophelie David (FRA) for the most in World Cup history. 

 

Old(ish) Newbies

The 2016/17 ski cross Rookies of the Year were both exceptionally well-deserving of their titles, with Canada’s Brittany Phelan and Italy’s Siegmar Klotz stepping up to record a handful of top-10 finishes and one big final appearance/4th-place finish apiece in their first full seasons on the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour. 

Also common between both Phelan and Klotz was the fact that, while they were “rookies” to ski cross at the beginning of the season, both were experienced Alpine athletes, with 25-year-old Phelan and 29-year-old Klotz each registering dozens of starts and several top-10 finishes at the World Cup level.

While essentially every athlete on the ski cross World Cup tour cut their teeth in alpine at some level, few boast the World Cup resumes of Phelan, Klotz, or the season’s other big newcomer, Francois Place (FRA) had before stepping over to ski cross. 

Place was also in the conversation for men’s Rookie of the Year, despite only competing in three World Cup competitions before season’s end, after scoring two small final wins for a pair of fifth place finishes - including one in his first career World Cup in Idre Fjall (SWE). 

And while his entrance to the World Cup of ski cross was unprecedented, Place would truly shock the scene in the final event of the year at the world champs in Sierra Nevada, where the 26-year-old would claim third place and the bronze medal at the biggest event of the season.

The Cross Alps Tour

Ski jumping has Four Hills, cross country has the Tour de Ski, and now ski cross has it’s own tour-within-a-tour after the successful completion of the inaugural Cross Alps Tour. 

Beginning in Val Thorens (FRA) and concluding in Innichen/San Candido (ITA) with stops in between in Arosa (SUI) and Montafon (AUT), the Cross Alps Tour ranged 1000km from west to east across the world’s most famous mountain range, packing six competitions into just two weeks and at the end crowning Marielle Thompson and Jean Frederic Chapuis as the inaugural Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour winners. 

Though the tour was darkened by a serious, potentially career-ending accident suffered by three-time crystal globe winner Anna Holmlund in training for the final competitions in Innichen/San Candido, the overall reception for the tour was positive.  

Sweden Stands Strong in Sierra Nevada

The injury to Anna Holmlund in December rocked the ski cross world, with her teammates on the Swedish ski cross team, understandably, hit especially hard by the accident. While athletes like Viktor Andersson and Sandra Naeslund would be able to continue to carry on successful seasons in the shadow of Holmlund’s injury, with Naeslund finishing the season second overall for the ladies, Sweden’s men’s leader Victor Oehling Norberg would step back from competition for over a month to be by Holmlund’s side. 

However, when the final heats of the season had crossed the finish line at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships, the Swedes had done their best to give the most difficult season in their history a storybook ending, with Sandra Naeslund and Victor Oehling Norberg claiming incredible, emotional gold medals. 

While no in-competition performance could replace the recovery everyone desires for Holmlund, Naeslund and Oehling Norberg’s world championship titles showed the glory that can come from perseverance in the face of great challenges, as two of the most well-liked and well-respected athletes in ski cross capped off an incredibly emotionally difficult season standing in triumph, on top of the world.