Smith goes 2-for-2 and Zangerl nabs first victory in second Are, SWE Audi SX race
ARE, SWE – With the wind and wild weather that had been plaguing proceedings all week finally abated, the second of back-to-back Audi ski cross World Cup races on a challenging course in Are, Sweden, got off more or less without a hitch on Sunday.
While the weather calmed down for the second race, action on course was turned up a notch, as several spectacular crashes and some incredible passing marked Sunday as a whole different beast from Saturday's race.
However, nothing changed on top of the ladies' podium, as Fanny Smith (SUI) was able to pull off the incredible feat of winning her second race in as many days on a speedy Are course that was testing skiers to their limits.
The ladies' big final on Sunday was almost identical to Saturday's, with Smith, Ophelie David (FRA), and Marielle Thompson (CAN) all once again competing for the win. This time around they were joined by Thompson's teammate Georgia Simmerling, with Swedish phenom and second place skier on Saturday Sandra Naeslund relegated to the small final (which she won).
Thompson was quickest out of the gate, but was caught by David on the second sweeping turn of the course before losing her line and skiing into the soft snow on the side of the track where she almost came to a complete stop. Smith and Simmerling then too swept by her, and Thompson would watch from the back of the pack as the other three ladies did battle.
Smith was able to slingshot past David soon after Thompson's mishap to take a lead she wouldn't relinquish on her way to her second win of the weekend and third of the season. David would claim second for her sixth podium of the year, while Simmerling was able to hold off a late challenge from Thompson to register her first podium of the season.
With the win, Smith moved up to just five points back of Thompson in the hunt for her second consecutive ski cross crystal globe with only one race left in the season at the World Cup finals in La Plagne, France.
“I'm quite happy,” Smith laughed after the race, “Nice weekend in Are. Quite fun. It feels a bit back like last year when I won the three races in a row. My goal is to win the [ski cross] World Cup. At the beginning of the season I was really preparing for the Olympic Games, but now that they're past I'm just trying to have fun and win the World Cup.”
With David more than 100 points back, Smith needs only to best Thompson in La Plagne to realize that goal.
In the men's race, it was 30-year-old veteran Thomas Zangerl (AUT) putting down a powerful performance on the way to his first podium in over three years and the first victory of his career, edging his teammate Andreas Matt, speedy Armin Niederer (SUI), and smooth-skiing Daniel Bohnacker (GER) in the big final.
Zangerl made it to the finals in impressive fashion, besting Saturday's winner Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) in an incredible quarter final earlier in the day that saw Zangerl fall on to his hip going into the homestretch step-down, only to pop off the lip and back on to his skis with Oehling Norberg just two meters behind him.
In the finals Zangerl got out to a clean early lead that he would hold on to through to the finish, despite heavy pressure from the powerhouse Matt. Niederer and Bohnacker were unable to make any progress on the two Austrians, and were left to settle for third and fourth place respectively.
After the race, Zangerl remembered the quarter final heat against a highly-motivated Oehling Norberg as the key point of his day.
“I needed all my power for these four heats to the final. It was very hard to ski against Victor, because yesterday he was unbeatable, so I took my chance in the quarter final and now it's my first win. I'm very happy.”
Despite finishing in ninth, Oehling Norberg was able to hold on to the red leader's bib, sitting now just 10 points up on Matt with 474 points to Matt's 464. Bohnacker is in third with 370 points, meaning that, like in the ladies' World Cup, it is between only two athletes in the race for the crystal globe.
The 2013/14 FIS Freestyle World Cup season will culminate next Sunday, 23 March, with the final Audi ski cross World Cup event of the season in La Plagne, France.
Full ladies results can be found HERE
Ladies' World Cup leaderboard can be found HERE
Full men's results can be found HERE
Men's World Cup leaderboard can be found HERE