Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup finals come to Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain, CAN - The final competition of a thrilling 2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season hits the slopes of Canada’s Blue Mountain resort this Sunday, where the best ski cross athletes in the world will be looking to end the tour on a high before heading back to Europe for the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle World Ski Championships.
After 13 competitions at eight different resorts in seven different countries spread out across three continents, at all comes down to Sunday’s competition where, even though the ski cross World Cup titles have already been won by Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA), there will be much to be decided by competition’s end.
As only the top 16 ladies and 32 men get invited to the ski cross World Cup finals, there will be no qualification round in Blue Mountain - just two training session and then Sunday’s competition, with Sunday’s heats organized according to World Cup ranking.
However, due to decisions by the Russian and French teams to keep the great majority of their squads in Europe (in some cases due to an injury bug running through their ranks and in other cases, such as for Chapuis, to rest for World Championships), there has been a fairly significant reshuffle in the entry lists. Several men who would have been on the outside looking in, including Anton Grimus (AUS), Tyler Wallasch (USA), and Ned Ireland (CAN) now find themselves in the mix for Sunday’s competition.
The competition in venue in Blue Mountain is a difficult, snaking course, with the standout features being the dramatic start immediately followed by a tricky gliding section that will be a tough test of rhythm, and a one-of-a-kind final jump that will see the athletes launch over a Audi R8 that has been integrated into the backside of the kicker. Designed and built by White Industries and in good skiing shape after some recent cold weather, the Blue Mountain course should lend itself to some excellent action come Sunday when competition kicks off at 10:30 EST.
Thompson set to recieve third globe, chases David for most-ever wins
As mentioned, Thompson will finish the weekend with the 2016/17 ski cross crystal globe - the third of her career. With six wins and a runner-up in 12 competitions, Thompson heads into Sunday with 865 points on the ski cross leaderboard, as well as 72 points and a second place ranking on the Freestyle overall World Cup leaderboard, just behind moguls skier Britteny Cox (AUS).
Though Thompson can’t go up or down on either of those lists, she will be looking for one fresh accolade on Sunday, as her next victory will give her 20 on her career and move her ahead of Anna Holmlund (SWE) into sole possession of second place on the ski cross World Cup all-time wins list, behind Ophelie David (FRA).
As Thompson scored her first career win in Blue Mountain just over five years ago, it would be only fitting for her to reach her most next milestone at her home-country venue.
Second overall for the ladies belongs to Sandra Naeslund (SWE) with 710 points, putting her in a fairly safe position ahead of Heidi Zacher (GER) and Fanny Smith (SUI). However, there in the battle for third is where things get interesting, as just a single point separates those two athletes in the battle for the season’s bronze medal - Zacher with 624 points ahead of Smith’s 623.
Chapuis out for Blue, Leman and Fiva to battle for silver
In something of a controversial decision, the great Jean Frederic Chapuis has elected to skip competition in Blue Mountain this weekend to rest for the Sierra Nevada world championships.
While Chapuis finished last weekend’s competition in Sunny Valley (RUS) with a disappointing 27th-place result after failing to advance from the eight finals, the only two men with a shot at catching him failed to take advantage of their opportunity, with Brady Leman (CAN) and Alex Fiva (SUI) also going out in the first heat and essentially handing the globe to Chapuis.
However, this is not to say Chapuis didn’t earn his reward. His four victories, two thirds, and 11 total top-10s in 13 competitions gave him 763 points on the season and his third-straight Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup title - a feat no other man has accomplished.
Leman, in second overall, has been one of the most consistent skiers on tour this year, with five runner-up finishes and one victory giving him 621 points before Sunday’s finals. While the course this season in Blue Mountain is completely different than the last time the ski cross World Cup stopped at the resort, five years ago, Leman should have fond memories of the venue as it was here that he captured his last World Cup win before his victory a few weeks ago In Idre Fjall (SWE).
Just behind Leman sits Fiva with 610 points. With three victories and three third place finishes, the Swiss team leader has had a resurgent 2016/17 season after struggling with nagging injuries through the previous few winters. Regardless of his position in Sunday’s competition, Fiva will finish the year with his highest ranking since his 2012/13 crystal globe winning campaign and will head into the Sierra Nevada world championships as one of the favourites.