Naeslund and Bischofberger claim globes at cancelled Megeve SX finale

17 March 2018 17:05
Marc Bischofberger and Sandra Naeslund
Marc Bischofberger and Sandra Naeslund -
GEPA Pictures

Megeve (FRA) - As the the clocked ticked nearer to the scheduled start time and the heavily falling snow picked up in intensity as the day progressed, the unfortunate reality of the situation at the 2017/18 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup finals in Megeve (FRA) made itself clear; there would be no grand finale to what had been another breathtaking season of ski cross action.

With organizers, crews, and officials pushed to their limit in fighting a losing battle against the accumulating snow, the difficult decision to cancel the race was made just before 13:00 CET by the jury. Mother Nature would deny ski cross fans from witnessing an event that had all the makings of an epic to close out the season.

Though things at the top of the ladies’ side had already been set in stone, there was still much that could have been redetermined in the final sprint for the men’s crystal globe and for the Nations Cup, but with the competition’s cancellation those battles were settled by circumstances beyond the control of the athletes.

 

Naeslund finishes historic season with two globes

In the prize-giving ceremony under the falling snow in the finish are Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund would finally get her hands on the two trophies she had guaranteed herself before even showing up in Megeve, as she earned both the ski cross and the Freestyle overall crystal globes for 2017/18. 

With seven victories and nine podiums in 10 events, Naeslund would finish the season with 870 points - more than 300 points clear of her nearest rival - capping an incredible 12 months that began with her winning gold at the Sierra Nevada 2017 world championships last March. 

 

 

 

Naeslund’s Freestyle overall win marks just the third time an athlete from the highly competitive and highly unpredictable ski cross ranks has won the biggest trophy in World Cup competition, putting her on a list with two of the greatest athletes in ski cross history in Ophelie David (FRA) and Tomas Kraus (CZE).

“I’m really proud of myself, and the whole team,” said Naeslund, still holding one of her globes, “It’s been a really amazing season. It was too bad I couldn’t make a podium happen at the Olympics, but I’m still super happy with the season.

“To be on that list with Ophelie and Tomas…I don’t know what to say. Both of them are legends, so that’s really cool. Of course this is the dream, to win the ski cross and the Freestyle overall, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen.”

With 539 points on the season, Switzerland’s Fanny Smith would take the 2017/18 silver medal, making for the fifth time in six seasons in which she has finished with a top three ranking (the only blemish on that streak being the 2015/16 campaign in which she did not compete due to injury). Smith added today’s hardware to a season collection that also includes the PyeongChang 2018 bronze medal.

Third overall for the ladies went to Canada’s Brittany Phelan, who, with 489 points and three podiums on the year - including back-to-back second-place finishes two weeks ago in Sunny Valley (RUS) - emerged as one of the season’s biggest surprises. Throw in a silver medal performance at the PyeongChang 2018 Games and you have a remarkable season for the 26-year-old who was only last season named Rookie of the Year.

 

Bischofberger earns first globe for Swiss in half a decade

The men’s finale was shaping up to be a gripping one, with third-overall Kevin Drury (CAN) and second-overall Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) both very much still in the hunt to catch a frontrunner, Marc Bischofberger (SUI), who came into the Megeve competition hobbled my an ACL strain. Rumours suggested the Bischofberger was unlikely to do any more than pull out of the gate and purposely DNF to gain a precious few points and then pray that his competitors wouldn’t be able to capitalize. 

However, that was not to be, and the man known as Bischi to his friends on tour would finish the season with 462 points to claim Switzerland’s first ski cross globe in half a decade, to go along with his Olympic silver medal earned at the PyeongChang Games. 

 

 

 

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Bischofberger, smiling broadly, “After the Olympics it was already great, but now with the globe it’s a perfect season for me. I couldn’t imagine this when I started this season. My goal was to be in the top-10, and now I’m the winner of the overall. 

“I’m so thankful for my team. Everybody does a great job and it’s really fun to ski with these guys. You can see with say the Norwegian team in Alpine how important a good team is, and our team works so well together. It’s a pleasure to ski with them.

“It’s not so cool that we couldn’t have the race today and that Freddy (Chapuis) and Drury couldn’t go for the win, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and it’s good that the right decision was made for safety.”

Chapuis would be denied his fourth-straight globe, but with 403 points would hold on for the season silver and his sixth-straight top-five overall finish. With the most men’s wins in ski cross World Cup history, three globes in his career so far, and the Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medal, Chapuis' 2017/18 result did nothing to weaken anyone’s claim that he may be the greatest of all time. 

Though this was just his third season of World Cup competition, Drury’s third place overall finish was just rewards for a skier who has shown flashes of ski cross brilliance since the moment he arrived on the tour. Scoring his first podiums and his first victory this year, as well as a fourth place at the Games in Korea, Drury has now firmly established himself amongst the ski cross elite. 

 

Sherret and Moebarg 2017/18 Rookies of the Year

In a vote by the team captains on Friday evening, India Sherret (CAN) and Erik Moebarg (SWE) were named the 2017/18 Rookies of the Year. While Sherret was not in Megeve due to injury, Moeberg was on hand, and the usually understated 20-year-old was clearly honoured to have been elected.

“It means a lot,” Moeberg smiled, “It’s Rookie of the Year. It’s one of the best things in the ski cross world. It’s really fun to have gotten the prize. Since I was a little kid I’ve been skiing as much as I can, having as much fun as I can, and that feeling is what I bring to ski cross.”

 

Canada takes third-straight ski cross Nations Cup

And, finally, the 2017/18 Nations Cup would go to Canada in what was in fact the tightest battle of any that could have been decided on Saturday, as Canada came into competition just six points ahead of the Swiss team - an incredibly tight margin after a full season of competition.

The typically stoic head coach of the Canadian team, Stanley Hayer, was pleased about the result for his team.

“It was a bit of a weird one this year,” said Hayer, “Last season was a really good season for our team and the Nations Cup was kind of expected. But this season it felt like we weren’t great. The ladies’ were fantastic, but the guys battled and struggled a bit - and the Swiss seemed super strong all season. In the end I wish we could have had the race-off today because there were three teams fighting for the men’s overall, but we’ll take it.

“Really, thanks to Britt (Phelan) and Kevin (Drury) and their seasons from Nakiska on, that’s the only reason we won this. We kinda hung in there for the first half of the season, but then those two stepped up with a bunch of podiums in the last few races and put us over the top.”

 

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