Oehling Norberg wins on home soil while Smith edges Thompson in Are, SWE

15 March 2014 18:30
Victor Oehling Norberg takes the lead in 1/8 finals in Are, SWE
Victor Oehling Norberg takes the lead in 1/8 finals in Are, SWE -
GEPA Pictures

ARE, SWE – A day of wild weather nearly overshadowed a pair of clutch performances from the host Swedish team, as the first of back-to-back Audi ski cross World Cup races took place in Are on Saturday.

A combination of high winds and warm weather had affected training in Are all week. While the temperatures finally dropped on Saturday, what replaced the warmth was a bizarre mix of sun, fog, snow squalls, and an only slightly diminished wind.

However, the men and ladies of ski cross soldiered through the weather, with Fanny Smith (SUI) and Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) both dominating the day by putting down the fastest runs in qualifications and following it up by claiming victory in the finals.

Smith took her win in a heavy big final that featured ski cross World Cup leader Marielle Thompson (CAN), 26 time winner on the World Cup circuit Ophelie David (FRA), and 17 year old phenom Sandra Naeslund (SWE).

It was an extremely tight final heat at the top,  with Thompson breaking out in one of her trademark fast starts only to be caught quickly by Smith. The two athletes were side by side through a good portion of the top part of the course, before a power move by Smith put her into a lead she would not relinquish.

“I really liked it today. It was real ski cross, with a nice fight,” Smith said after claiming her third podium in a row, “It was quite fun with the weather, too, changing every run. But it was quite lucky that we had a nice clear spot for the finals.”

Behind Thompson and Smith, Naeslund went toe-to-toe with the legendary David, making a bold pass to move into third place and claim a spot on the podium on home turf for the first of two big results for the Swedes on the day. It was Naeslund's second podium of the season and it, along with her fifth place finish at Sochi 2014, suggests there may be a new superstar emerging on the Audi ski cross tour.

In the men's race, Oehling Norberg was simply untouchable on the day, winning not just the qualification round, but every heat on his way to victory in front of the Swedish crowd. The 23 year old skied flawlessly, with blistering starts that had him far enough ahead by the time he hit the first turn that he was never really even challenged throughout the day.

“It's an awesome feeling to win and an even better feeling to win on home turf,” Oehling Norberg said from the finish area, “I have a great feeling on my skis right now. It's so fun to ski. The winning concept today for me was that I really wanted to win this competition, I really wanted to ski more and more and just beat the other guys, and that's what I did.”

Behind Oehling Norberg in the finals was Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Jonathan Midol (FRA), who also went unchallenged on his way to his first World Cup podium, as Armin Niederer (SUI) and Daniel Bohnacker got tangled up behind him and went down. Both Niederer and Bohnacker came into the finish area with bloodied faces caused by Bohnacker's ski coming off, though both wounds were minor. Niederer, with both skis on, took third place.

Thompson's second place finish was enough for her to hold on to top spot on the ski cross World Cup leader board, while Oehling Norberg's win vaulted him into first place in the extremely tight men's race for the crystal globe.

On Sunday the athletes will do it all over again, as the last Audi ski cross World Cup race before the World Cup finals closes out round two of the Are back-to-back weekend.

Full ladies' results can be found HERE

Full men's results can be found HERE

Video highlights will be available HERE (after 22:30 CET 14 Mar 2014)