Limbacher and Midol on top in PyeongChang test event
PyeongChang, KOR - The final event of the 2015/16 PyeongChang Olympic test event series took to Bokwang Phoenix Park on Sunday, living up to the high precedent set by the early competitions in every way, as Andrea Limbacher (AUT) and Bastien Midol (FRA) claimed victory in Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup action.
Sunday in Korea dawned cloudy with the threat of snow in the forecast, but with an expertly prepared track and an decent weather in the afternoon, the finals got underway with a big crowd on hand.
It was clear that racing in PyeongChang was going to be tense, with six of the first eight men’s heats going to a photo finish as the technical final straightaway led to drafting and passing just before the line.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the ladies’ big final. There, a last second reshuffling saw leader Marielle Thompson (CAN) get passed by Limbacher and then fall after contacting the Austrian’s skis, sliding across the line into fourth place. Just before Thompson went down, her teammate Kelsey Serwa pulled out from drafting behind World Cup leader Anna Holmlund (SWE) and out-reached Holmlund at the line for second place, leaving Holmlund to settle for third.
Andrea Limbacher takes the win on Sunday
Limbacher’s win was her second of the season and her fifth podium, and it moved her into a tie with Sandra Naeslund (SWE) for fourth on the ski cross rankings.
“I didn’t really have a plan today because training wasn’t good for me all week,” Limbacher said, “I had some crashes in training but today I finished first and it’s really awesome for me. I just wanted to have fun today. I love skiing in heats and I’m glad I was able to ski so well.”
Serwa’s podium was her second in a comeback season that has seen ups and downs. Moving from fourth to second as she did in the big final, she had the best seat in the house for what transpired at the finish line.
“I knew it was going to be a game of patience,” she explained, “I found myself in fourth early on but I just stayed calm and knew there was going to be an opportunity at the bottom. I was inside on Anna on a lot of features and she kept shutting the door on me, but I caught her draft heading into the finish and made those two passes into second.”
The men’s final was no less dramatic. Midol got out to an early lead, though he was followed closely by his teammate and men’s ski cross World Cup leader Jean Frederic Chapuis, along with Paul Eckert (GER) and Kevin Drury (CAN).
Drury, appearing in his first World Cup big final, had often looked like the fastest skier on the course on Sunday, and heading into the negative turn behind Midol he aimed to prove that point, going for a risky low, inside pass. Unfortunately, he ran out of space and got into a deep compression that nearly threw into the fences on the next banked corner.
While he somehow stayed on his feet, Eckert and Chapuis were able to get around him as the pack made their way towards the homestretch.
Just before the line, contact between Eckert and Chapuis sent the Frenchmen into a tailspin, and while Drury sought to reach his way onto his first career podium as Chapuis slid, Chapuis' boot would cross the line before the Canadian’s hand.
The ladies and men of the podium in PyeongChang
First-time winner Midol was at a loss for words as he surveyed the finish area following his performance.
“It’s my first victory on the World Cup,” he said, beaming, as the snow began to fall heavily at Bokwang Phoenix Park, “It’s an amazing day, a very good day. The course was so cool. I’m so happy.”
After an exceptional 2014/15 season, Eckert had struggled through the 2015/16 campaign, and his second-place finish on Sunday came in his first big final appearance of the year.
“At the beginning of the season I had some problems,” said the German, “I was skiing good but not good enough. I knew that I could ski faster and today I did. I liked the course during the training and also during qualification. Every heat today I got better and better and to come in second place, I’m really happy with that. I had a lot of fun. It was a good day.”
While Anna Holmlund had established her claim to the 2015/16 ski cross crystal globe at the previous week's event in Idre Fjall, (SWE), Sunday’s men’s result in PyeongChang has now confirmed the men’s race as well, as Jean Frederic Chapuis will, like Holmlund, claim his second-straight World Cup ski cross overall title.
From PyeongChang, the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup now moves to Arosa, (SUI), for the first-ever ski cross World Cup sprint event and the 2015/16 season finale. And, there, Anna Holmlund will look to become the first ski cross athlete to take the Freestyle overall crystal globe since Ophelie David (FRA) did it in 2009.
GEPA-Pictures photos (for editorial use)