History to be made at SX World Cup finals in Megeve
Megeve (FRA) - The final event of the 2017/18 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season is slated to go down this Saturday, when the top 16 ladies and 32 men of the winter face off under the shadow of Mont Blanc in Megeve, France, for the ski cross World Cup finals.
The Megeve competition will be the 12th of a 2017/18 that saw a jam-packed December highlighted by the Cross Alps Tour, January competitions in Idre Fjall (SWE) and Nakiska (CAN), an incredible ski cross showing at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea, and a pair of exceptional back-to-back races in Sunny Valley (RUS) two weekends ago leading up to the Megeve finals.
With no qualification round, competition on Saturday in Megeve will begin right away with the men’s eight finals, which will be getting out of the gate at 13:30 CET.
Naeslund looking to end historic season on a high
Through all 11 World Cup races so far this season one thing has remained constant on the ladies' side of things and that is the dominance of Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund, as the 21-year-old reigning world champion heads into Megeve with podiums in all but one event this season. Having already locked up the ski cross crystal globe before the Olympic break with a win in Nakiska, in Sunny Valley Naeslund was also able to do what no ski cross athlete has done in nearly a decade when she guaranteed herself the Freestyle overall globe as the top ladies’ athlete across all events in 2017/18.
No matter her result on Saturday in Megeve, Naeslund will finish this season holding two crystal globes, capping what has been a remarkable 12 months for the understated speedster. Naeslund will become just the third ski cross athlete in the history of the Freestyle Skiing World Cup to win both globes, following in the footsteps of Ophelie David (FRA) and Tomas Kraus (CZE), two of the greatest ski cross athletes of all time.
Behind Naeslund the battle for second overall on the season will come down to a face off between a pair of Olympic medalists, as PyeongChang 2018 bronze winner Fanny Smith (SUI) will look to hold off silver winner Brittany Phelan. With 539 points to Phelan’s 489, Smith has a 50 point cushion and should be counted on to maintain her spot. However, even if she should fall to third overall, it will be the fifth-straight season that Smith will finish in the top three, making the 25-year-old the most consistent skier on tour over the past half decade.
Mathematically still in the running to earn a top three overall season result is Marielle Berger Sabbatel, who with top-10 results in all but one competition this season currently sits fifth overall with 422 points (Heidi Zacher of Germany, out for the season with a knee injury, is currently in fourth). Berger Sabbetel and her teammate Alizee Baron will both be pumped up to perform in front of a home French crowd in Megeve and should be counted on for strong performances on Saturday.
Others to watch out for include PyeongChang 2018 gold medal winner Kelsey Serwa (CAN), who will be looking for a little end-of-season redemption after a tough showing in Sunny Valley, Katrin Ofner (AUT) who finished second in Megeve last time the World Cup hit the resort in 2015, and Sami Kennedy-Sim (AUS), who would like to finish strong what has so far been best World Cup season of her decade-long career.
SX men set for dramatic finish
A dramatic set-up for the final men’s competition of the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season was made even more so with the announcement by Swiss Ski that Olympic silver medalist and crystal globe frontrunner Marc Bischofberger had tweaked his ACL in Sunny Valley two weekends ago.
With 462 points so far this season Bischofberger sits 59 points up on three-time reigning ski cross crystal globe winner Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) and his 403 points, while third-ranked Kevin Drury (CAN) sits just back of Chapuis and very much in reach of Bischofberger with 398 points.
Reports indicate that Bischofberger does intend to get into the start gate on Saturday, though how far he’s willing or able to push his knee remains to be seen. Whether he does or does not compete, however, there are a myriad of scenarios that could play out depending on the final results in Megeve:
Should Bischofberger manage to finish fifth or better on Saturday, he will take home the crystal globe regardless of the results of Chapuis or Drury. Should Bischofberger finish somewhere between sixth and 12th, a victory by Chapuis would give the Frenchman the globe. And, should Bischofberger be unable to compete and earn no points at all on Saturday, a third place result or better would give Chapuis an unprecedented fourth-consecutive men’s ski cross crystal globe.
However, if Bischofberger earns more than a single point, which he can do by simply pushing out of the start gate and skiing off of the course, he will force Chapuis into a position where Chapuis must score a second-place result or a victory in order to earn the globe.
History is on Chapuis' side here in Megeve, as he claimed his first crystal globe at this venue back in 2014/15, finishing off the season with a clinical win in front of a frenzied French crowd. While he has his work cut out for him this season, the 27-year-old can be counted on to do everything possible to once again hoist the big trophy on Saturday.
And, of course, there’s the aforementioned Drury waiting in the wings who, with a victory or a second-place result on his part and exceptionally poor results from Bischofberger and Chapuis, could potentially sweep in and steal the globe from under their noses in the final event of the season.
However, all of the above assumes strong results on Saturday from Chapuis and/or Drury, and ignores the fact that, theoretically, both those athletes could still find themselves knocked out of the season top three. Indeed, by another set of circumstances, where the likes of Alex Fiva (SUI), Sergey Ridzik (RUS), Jonas Lenherr (SUI), and/or Francois Place (FRA) (ranked fourth to seventh, respectively, and all within reach of at least third overall) are able to perform at their peak in the Megeve competition, a while nother overall final ranking is possible.
With so many scenarios that could play out in the men’s competition on Saturday, the final event of the season promises to be a fittingly white-knuckle finish to what has been an already thrilling season.