Fiva and Gjefsen win in Arosa, Smith takes second
AROSA, SUI – Perfect blue skies, tight racing, and two home nation athletes on the podium was the perfect formula on Friday, as the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup got back to business after the Olympic Games with an excellent race in stunning Arosa, Switzerland.
With Alex Fiva (SUI) taking the win on the men's side and Fanny Smith (SUI) finishing in second place just behind Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (NOR) in the ladies' competition, the host Swiss were able to claim some kind of redemption after a tough Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games that saw them fail to put any athletes on the podium.
But Fiva and Smith's home country podiums were just two of the great stories on a day filled with them.
For Gjefsen, the victory was just the third of her career, and came almost three years to the day since her last win on the World Cup circuit. While the Norwegian squad has skied strongly at points in the 2013/14 season, Gjefsen's win was the first podium of the season for the team.
Gjefsen earned the win with a solid performance from qualifying – where she was second – right through to the final heat, where she was able to out-glide her competitors on the rolling top section and gain a lead that would not be challenged.
“I finally skied better than I have in the last little while and than I did in the Olympics,” Gjefsen said about her race, “I was able to take some revenge. I had good confidence about my line. It's been a long time since I've been on top and it feels really, really good.”
Smith was jubilant as the runner-up in front of the enthusiastic Swiss crowd, and with her second podium in a row she moved up to second place on the World Cup ski cross leader board behind Marielle Thompson (CAN).
Third place in the ladies' race went to Ophelie David (FRA), who was also able to exact some measure of revenge after a Sochi 2014 showing that saw her fall in the finals and finish in fourth place. Anna Holmlund (SWE), who took the bronze in Sochi, swapped places with David in Arosa, and finished fourth in the big final.
Thompson won the small final to end up fifth on the day, extending her impressive streak of top five finishes to 12 in a row (including Sochi 2014).
On the topic of redemption, greatest of the day's several examples may have been Fiva, as the big leader of the Swiss team was able to bounce back from an unfortunate last-place finish in Sochi to claim his second World Cup win in a row.
“It's a little dream come true,” said Fiva as a crowd of fans chanted his name from the sidelines. “I've got so many supporters here and they did such a good job from the side of the slope. It's just really nice to win at home. My motivation was just to give an answer to the Olympics, and I think I did.”
One might also argue that the second-place performance of “Mr. Ski Cross” Tomas Kraus was the true highlight of the day, as the 12-year World Cup veteran scored his first podium since breaking his pelvis at the 2013 world championships in Voss, Norway. Feeling fatigued and uninspired up to this point in the season, Kraus had already decided that Arosa would be his last race of 2013/14.
“I know that this is the last race for me this season and I wanted to give everything,” said an emotional Kraus in the finish area, “But you know how it is with ski cross, you never know if you'll go out in the first round or make it to the final. It's a great feeling to be back on the podium.”
Bastian Juell (NOR) took third place, and with his performance the Norwegians did not have to wait long for their second podium of the season. Juell was able to escape unscathed when fourth-place finisher Chris Delbosco (CAN) spun out in the top roller section, with the Norwegian then making his way unchallenged down the rest of the course for his first podium in two years.
Dave Duncan (CAN) won the men's small final and earned himself enough points to claim the red bib and climb to the top of a tightly-packed men's ski cross leader board.
Full ladies' results can be found HERE
Full men's results can be found HERE
Highlight videos from Arosa, SUI, can be found HERE
Photos of the event for editorial use can be fond HERE