Ophelie David and Alex Fiva clinch last pre-Olympic Ski Cross race
KREISCHBERG, AUT - Ophelie David (FRA) and Alex Fiva (SUI) have won the last pre-Olympic ski cross race of the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup tour, which took place in Kreischberg today. It was the first race in two years on Austrian turf, and the first one in the Murau region since 2008.
With a first-place qualifying time by hometown hero Andreas Matt, the Austrian fans were anticipating a celebration in welcoming ski cross back to the country. And though Matt would end up in 9th place, a career-best performance for a promising member of the Austrian squad would give the home crowd something to cheer about.
For David and Fiva, Kreischberg would mark each of their first wins of the season, further confusing the ski cross World Cup leader board and making ski cross likely the most difficult freestyle event to predict come Games time.
For David, it was the French racer's 26th career World Cup win, and it come against tough competition in the form of Fanny Smith (SUI), in second, and Marielle Thompson (CAN) in third. Smith heads into the Olympic break sitting third on the ski cross leader board, while Thompson sits in first and continues to pull away from the pack, now with 480 points to Kat Mueller's (SUI) 408. David continues to sit in fourth overall.
Katrin Ofner (AUT) scored the best ladies' result of the day for the home squad, as she made it through to her second big final of the season but had to settle for fourth.
On the men's side of things, Alex Fiva claimed his career's sixth win in the season's seventh World Cup race, and appears to have righted the ship after back-to-back 25th place performances in Val Thorens (FRA).
Johannes Rohrweck (AUT) made his countrymen proud by taking second to score the lone podium result for Austria today, taking his career's first podium in only his 11th World Cup event.
"I'm feeling great," Rohrweck said after the race, "Everything is going so fast right now, I just don't get it yet. I had a great day although I wouldn't have mind if it (the result) would have been earlier."
While Rohrweck's first podium on home soil was quite obviously one of the highlights of the day, perhaps the biggest story of the day was the return to the podium of Vancouver 2010 Olympic gold medallist Michael Schmid (SUI) in only his second race back after nearly 3 years away from competition.
With his showing at Kreischbergh, Schmid - who has suffered setback after setback in his attempts to return from a number of injuries - suddenly suggests the possibility of a gold medal defense in Sochi, which even a month ago seemed unthinkable.
Thomas Borge Lie (NOR) came in fourth, his best career result in a performance that may have been overshadowed by Rohrweck and Schmid.
In the Ski Cross World Cup Standings, the men's title battle couldn't get any tighter. Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), who was the third best qualifier in Kreischberg but was eliminated in the round of 32, still sits in first with 319 points, while David Duncan (CAN) and Andreas Matt (AUT) follow in second and third tied at 316 points.