Holmlund and Chapuis cap off thrilling Are weekend with wins
ARE, SWE – Anna Holmlund (SWE) capped off a huge weekend for the host Swedish squad and Jean-Frederic Chapuis (FRA) made good on his promise from yesterday, as the two fastest skiers from qualifications were able to run the table and take wins in the second Audi ski cross World Cup races of the weekend in Are, Sweden.
Sunday's performance was sweet redemption for Holmlund, as the athlete who calls Are home suffered a bitter disappointment on Saturday where she also qualified first, but then missed a gate and DNF'd in her quarter-finals heat.
The usually self-composed Swede was clearly angry after Saturday's race, but she managed to turn that emotion into action by utterly dominating Sunday's event, winning every heat by a huge margin, including a big final that saw co-favourites Fanny Smith (SUI) and Andrea Limbacher crash out in succession.
The victory was the first for Holmlund since 2011, the season in which she won the ski cross crystal globe and her final complete season before a series of knee injuries derailed her momentum.
“It feels so good,” said Holmlund following the awards ceremony, “I've been waiting for this moment since 2011. There have been some races before where I felt I really could win, but finally being able to do it and win is so good.
“Last year was a rough year for me. I just wasn't there mentally. I remember here in Are last year I was happy when I didn't make it through the quarter-finals because it meant I didn't have to deal with it anymore. So to come back this season and get the win is another kind of victory for me.”
Smith's crash was her second of the weekend, with both events atypical of a skier who is generally able to speed her way out of any trouble. After Smith went out near the top of the course, Limbacher appeared to be making up ground on Holmlund before she, too, slid out on the toughest corner of the technical Are track, opening the door wide for Andrea Zemanova (CZE) in her first-ever big final.
From there, scoring here first-ever World Cup podium was no problem, as Zemanova was able to simply cruise her way through the rest of the course and into a second place result that served as reward for avoiding the chaos going on around her.
For the men, Jean-Frederic Chapuis put on a gutsy show, advancing his way through heats that had some hard-fought battles with some impressive passing, including a last-ditch effort in his semi-final heat to edge teammate Sylvain Mailler in a photo finish.
In the big final Chapuis was able to rocket out to an early lead while Alex Fiva (SUI), Paul Eckert (GER), and Terence Tchiknavorian (FRA) jockeyed for position behind him. Despite some strong pressure from Fiva through the latter few features of the track, including an attack on the negative corner, Chapuis was able to hold on for his first victory of the season and second podium of the weekend.
“I'm happy I finally won one,” Chapuis laughed from the finish area, “I've been second, second, second, sometimes fourth, so today I'm really happy to win. I had good skiing today, and a good start, and I was able to keep it all together from the first run to the finals.”
Fiva, who has struggled to refind his form this season after dealing with back issues last year, on Sunday again looked like the skier who claimed the ski cross crystal globe in 2012/13. Consistently skiing some of the fastest and most creative lines of the day, Fiva was able to work his way from fourth out of the gate to second by race end with daring passes on both Eckert and Tchiknavorian.
Third place and first World Cup podium went to Eckert, who is currently in the midst of a breakout season that has included a handful of top-10 results and a fourth-place finish at the Kreischberg 2015 World Championships.
Tchiknavorian was forced to settle for fourth despite it appearing through the first half of the race that he would follow Chapuis into the finish for his first career podium, after he spun out just after the sweeping left hand corner that had taken out Limbacher earlier.
Despite a disappointing 25th place performance, the previous day's race winner Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) was able to hold on to the red ski cross World Cup leader's bib, sitting still 30 points ahead of Chapuis.
The Audi ski cross World Cup tour now moves to Germany for another set of back-to-back races at the rescheduled Tegernsee event.