Audi ski cross World Cup back at it in Arosa, SUI
AROSA, SUI – Audi FIS ski cross World Cup competition gets back to action on this week in picturesque Arosa, Switzerland, with qualification on Thursday and finals on Friday.
We are coming off the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games where ski cross was featured as one of the marquee events not just of the freestyle skiing programme, but the Games as a whole. And, with those two hard-fought, surprising, and endlessly entertaining Sochi 2014 races showcasing some incredible competition for a worldwide audience, ski cross as a whole is looking better than it ever has.
Ladies' competition at Sochi 2014 saw the top skier at this point in the 2013/14 season do what she has done twice already in World Cup competition, as Marielle Thompson (CAN) put on a dominant display on the big, challenging Rosa Khutor course to score gold.
Thompson has been in the top five for 11 straight events (including Sochi 2014), putting her among the elites in any FIS discipline over the past 12 months when it comes to consistent success. She currently leads the ski cross World Cup by 72 points over Katrin Mueller (SUI), and sits fourth on the freestyle overall leader board.
Mueller, along with teammates Fanny Smith and Sanna Luedi are coming off a tough Olympic Games. All three of the Swiss skiers currently sit in the top five on the World Cup leader board, yet none were able to make it to the final at the Games. Smith, in eighth place, was the top showing, while Mueller came 10th and Luedi 13th.
Though Mueller has announced she will miss the rest of the season due to instability in her knee, Arosa is the lone 2013/14 race on Swiss soil and you can expect Smith, Luedi, and the rest of the Swiss team to do their best to make amends for Sochi.
It's a similar story on the men's side for the Swiss team. Armin Niederer scored a solid seventh place result at Sochi 2014, but there were big hopes for his teammates Alex Fiva and Vancouver 2010 gold medallist Mike Schmid. Schmid pulled out of competition before qualifications after re-aggravating his knee injury and Fiva went out in the first round, making for an all-around tough Games for the team.
However, pretty much every nation left Sochi a little disappointed after the men's race, as Jean Frederic Chapuis, Arnaud Bovolenta, and Jonathan Midol swept the men's podium for France in incredible – and improbable – fashion.
Chapuis has proven himself a big-time performer, as he won the 2013 world championships in Voss and now holds the dual crowns of world and Olympic champion. Bovolenta and Midol were both surprises, however, as neither skier has scored a World Cup podium at this point in their careers.
It was impressive skiing from all three athletes in Sochi, as the big course and all-or-nothing competition saw so many skiers crash, slip out, or make just enough of a mistake to watch medal hopes disappear.The French men were able to stay on their feet and take advantage of others' mistakes, and for that reaped big rewards.
With every other nation shut out of Sochi 2014 medals, the last races of the 2013/14 Audi ski cross season will take on added importance. Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) currently leads the men's standings and has skied consistently well through the year. Though he crashed spectacularly in the quarter finals at Sochi 2014, he was the top overall qualifier, and it looks like the 23-year-old could take the crystal globe with just a few more solid performances.
Some snow is expected through the middle of the week in Arosa, but forecasts are calling for favorable conditions come Thursday and Friday.
The ladies' World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE
The men's World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE
A 3D graphic video overview of the Arosa, SUI, ski cross course can be viewed HERE
Tentative race program for the Arosa, SUI, ski cross World Cup can be found HERE