Men's Audi ski cross World Cup season preview
The 2015/16 edition of the Audi ski cross World Cup season gets underway December 4-5 in Montafon, (AUT), one of five new venues to host World Cup ski cross action this season. With no World Championships, it's all about the World Cup and the race for the crystal globe this season. With several top athletes returning from injury and a handful of other skiers coming off break-out seasons, the Audi ski cross World Cup tour promises to be one of the most compelling, unpredictable, and exciting competitions on snow again this season.
Here we preview the 2015/16 men's Audi ski cross World Cup tour.
1 - Jean Frederic Chapius (FRA - 747pts)
2 - Victor Oehling-Norberg (SWE - 553pts)
3 - Bastien Midol (FRA - 375pts)
(Full list HERE)
Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships
Gold – Filip Flisar (SLO)
Silver – Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA)
Bronze – Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE)
Rookie of the Year – Sergey Ridzik (RUS)
It's hard to overstate the accomplishments racked up by French ski cross leader Jean Frederic Chapuis from the the last few seasons..
In those 25 months, from 10th February 2013 to 14th March 2015, Chapuis went from a little-known competitor with only one podium finish,, to Voss 2013 world champion, Sochi 2014 Olympic champion (leading a French podium sweep), and finally to 2014/15 World Cup crystal globe winner – with a silver medal at the Kreischberg 2015 world championships thrown in for good measure.
It has been one of the most impressive streaks by a ski cross athlete since the inception of the World Cup, as Chapuis first proved himself as the best big-game performer in the field with his World Championships and Olympic wins.
Chapuis finished 2014/15 with seven podiums in 11 events, capping the season with a run of six straight podiums that included four victories and a third-place result on French soil in Megeve. With the ski cross course at his home resort of Val Thorens (unofficially the "ski cross capital of the world") named in his honour, Chapuis has reached lofty heights.
However, even with Chapuis' impressive final numbers, for much of the season it appeared that 2013/14 crystal globe winner Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) was on his way to a repeat performance, registering five podiums in the first eight races – including a streak of three straight victories and bronze-medal performance at the World Championships.
Unfortunately for 25-year-old Oehling Norberg, every time he faltered, Chapuis pounced, and by the final two races in Megeve he was all but eliminated from contention. Still, a crystal globe season followed by a second-overall result is impressive, and Oehling Norberg remains one of the most respected competitors in the World Cup field.
While Chapuis was the obvious standout for the French squad in 2014/15 season it was a phenomenal year for French skiers up and down the lineup. They finished the season with Bastien Midol in third and and Sylvain Miaillier to make for three skiers in the top five.
Midol's season was particularly remarkable, as he returned to competition last season after breaking his back in a nasty crash early in 2013/14. With a previous best 28th-overall finish on the World Cup tour, 2014/15 marked a huge leap for a skier who was unsure if he would be able to compete again.
Other notables in 2014/15 include a strong German team, which placed three skiers – Paul Eckert, Daniel Bohnacker, and Andreas Schauer – in the top ten. Eckert, who finished fourth at Kreischberg, lead the way for the Germans in fourth overall, making for an massive jump from his 33rd-place finish the previous season.
And finally, we come to Filip Flisar (SLO), the charismatic 2011/12 crystal globe champion who has struggled with health and confidence problems. While Flisar ended 2014/15 19th-overall, with only one podium, he was able to throw down when it really counted, claiming World Championship gold with an incredible pass on Chapuis and Oehling Norberg on the final turn in Kreischberg.
To see Flisar receive his World Championships medal was one of the feel-good stories of the season, and hopefully it signified a return to form for one of the most exciting skiers on tour.
The season kicks off at a new venue in Montafon (AUT). Along with Montafon, other new stops on the tour this season include Watles (ITA), Idre (SWE), PyeongChang (KOR), and Squaw Valley (USA). The PyeongChang Olympic test event specifically promises to be a highlight as it is the first glimpse of what awaits for the 2018 Games.
The World Cup finals in Squaw Valley, USA will also be compelling. Often, the Audi ski cross World Cup comes down to the last heat of the last race in the fight for the crystal globe (the ladies' 2013/14 season being an example). With the final race of 2015/16 at the iconic Squaw Valley resort, and it being the first Audi ski cross World Cup to be held on U.S. soil in three seasons, the stakes will be high.