Audi ski cross World Cup finals to finish FIS Freestyle season in La Plagne
LA PLAGNE, FRA – The final event of the 2013/14 FIS Freestyle season will take place when the Audi ski cross World Cup finals competition takes to the slopes of La Plagne, France, on Sunday.
It's been a roller coaster season for the Audi ski cross tour, with some cancelled races, some replacement races, an incredible showing at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and gripping battles on both the men's and ladies' sides for the ski cross crystal globes that may come right down to the final heat of Sunday's event.
The ladies' ski cross World Cup is currently lead by Marielle Thompson (CAN), and the Sochi 2014 gold medal winner will be looking to lock down her second globe in three seasons. However, Thompson will be facing down the stiffest of competition in Fanny Smith (SUI), as the explosive Swiss skier has shaken off the disappointment of an 8th place finish in Sochi to score three straight World Cup podiums – including back-to-back wins last weekend in Are, Sweden.
The two 21-year-olds are separated by the barest of margins – Thompson's 655 points just five clear of Smith's 650. While no other skier can catch either in the race for the globe, Sunday's race promises to be a must-watch event, as the laid-back, flowing style of Thompson goes head-to-head with the hard-charging tenacity of Smith in a winner-take-all battle.
The ageless Ophelie David (FRA) sits in third spot on the leader board, where she will remain regardless of the outcome of Sunday's race. Fourth place currently belongs to Katrin Mueller (SUI), though she will not be competing in La Plagne after undergoing knee surgery last week. Fifth spot belongs to Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (NOR), though 17 year old Sandra Naeslund (SWE) is only one point back in sixth.
On the men's side, Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) currently holds the top spot, but not by much more than does Thompson on the ladies' side. Oehling Norberg's 474 points is only 10 clear of the 464 held by the resurgent Andreas Matt (AUT), as those two skiers have been able to pull away from the pack in what had been an incredibly close men's battle before last weekend's back-to-back races in Sweden.
As with the ladies, it will be a competition to see which skier can outlast the other come Sunday, as neither Oehling Norberg or Matt can be caught by any other skier in the race for the globe.
Daniel Bohnacker (GER) currently sits in third, and is wrapping up an exceptional season that saw him place in the top 10 in seven out of 12 events, including two podiums, and back-to-back fourth place finishes last week in Are. Dave Duncan (CAN) is in fourth, and was knocked out of the running for the crystal globe when a bad fall ended his weekend in the first race in Are. Fifth place currently belongs to Alex Fiva (SUI), but he will not be participating in La Plagne after also suffering a crash in Are and re-aggravating a nagging back injury.
Only the top 32 men and ladies' on the World Cup circuit are invited to compete at the Audi ski cross World Cup finals, meaning competition on Sunday gets underway with no qualification round as skiers will be sorted according to their ranking on the World Cup circuit.
Weather forecasts are calling for snow over the weekend in La Plagne, though forecasted amounts are varying.
Race program for the Audi ski cross World Cup finals in La Plagne can be viewed HERE
Ladies' ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE
Men's ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE