Chapuis leads French podium sweep in men's Olympic ski cross event
Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA), Arnaud Bovolenta (FRA) and Jonathan Midol (FRA) have secured the first clean sweep for France at Olympic Winter Games by finishing first, second and third in the men's ski cross event staged at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park today.
The three skiers thus produced the sixth medal sweep at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games and thus set a new record number of sweeps at a single Winter Games.
However, even in the unpredictable world of ski cross racing, there are few who would have anticipated today's outcome, as Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) led a French sweep of the podium.
Followed closely by his teammate Arnaud Bovolenta in the Silver medal position and a sprawling Jonathan Midol taking home Bronze, Chapuis coolly sliced his way down Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to take Olympic Winter Games gold.
Brady Leman (CAN) finished fourth after skidding out while trying to push his way from the back into a medal position.
Chapuis' performance was yet another shock on a day when every pre-race favourite went out ahead of him in one kind of mishap or another.
Up and down the start list, skier after skier fell victim to the tough course, as the high stakes of the contest and high difficulty of the run forced crashes, mistakes and heartbreak.
Alex Fiva (SUI) got tangled up in his 1/8 final and was knocked out of contention, as was second best qualifier Christopher Delbosco (CAN) a few heats later. Andreas Matt (AUT) simply did not ski well in his quarterfinal and watched his hopes of scoring a second consecutive Olympic Winter Games medal slide away with the competitors ahead of him.
Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), the top skier from the seeding round, was involved in a spectacular crash in his quarterfinal that ended with three of the four competitors careering across the finish line on their sides.
Meanwhile, Chapuis looked unflappable throughout the day, with a combination of solid starts, patience and anticipation keeping him aloof from the chaos going on around him. When he needed a pass - as he did in the big final to move into first place - he waited calmly for an opening and then slid through unscathed.
“With the two other French guys it's like a dream,” he said after the race. “Yesterday, I was joking with the guys saying that all three on the podium would be good and it happened. It's perfect.
We didn't have a strategy. There are three places for the podium, there is one loser place. We are friends off the slopes, but on the slopes we are enemies, so I tried to make my best.”
Despite having only 32 World Cup starts and one victory to his name, the 24-year-old now holds the ski cross double crown of world champion and Olympic Winter Games champion, and has proved himself to be the top high-pressure ski cross racer in the world.
Perhaps even more remarkable than Chapuis' performance were those of his compatriots, as Bovolenta and Midol are now Olympic Games medallists despite never having reached a World Cup podium.
Bovolenta's previous best result was a sixth place earned earlier this season in Val Thorens, while Midol had one fourth place in 2012/13 in Les Contamines.
In a thrill for the boisterous Russian crowd, Egor Korotkov (RUS) won the small final over Filip Flisar (SLO) to finish fifth on the day, in an impressive performance for a racer who has not scaled the World Cup podium since the 2011/12 season.