Ski cross set for big day of competition on Saturday at SN2017
Sierra Nevada, SPA - Two weeks after the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour wrapped up in Blue Mountain (CAN), the top SX athletes in the world will be ready for one more chance for glory in 2016/17 at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships this Saturday.
The cross course in Sierra Nevada has already been put through its paces by not one, but two snowboard cross competitions, with tight races and lots of passing in both competitions. With some new snow and colder temperatures over the past couple of days, as well as a restructuring of the course to better suit the style of the ski crossers, everything is coming together to make the Sierra Nevada 2017 course truly world championships-level.
Coming into Sierra Nevada it’s the Canadians riding the hot skis, after the home squad put three athletes on the podium in Blue Mountain and narrowly missed out on a fourth, all while securing their second-straight Nations Cup trophy as the best overall team through the 2016/17 season.
Marielle Thompson took the ladies’ win at Blue, where she also received her crystal globe as the 2016/17 ski cross World Cup overall champion. With seven victories on the season and no result lower than fifth (save for Feldberg, where she received a DNF), Thompson comes into Sierra Nevada 2017 as the most dominant force in ski cross and will be hungry for her first world championship title.
Conveniently, the podium in Blue Mountain mirrored the overall World Cup standings for the season, with Sandra Naeslund (SWE) finishing second and Fanny Smith (SUI) coming in third. Naeslund had eight podiums on the season, including two victories, while Smith managed six podiums in her comeback season after missing all of 2015/16 due to injury. However, of the top three, Smith is the only athlete with a previous world champs gold, as she took the title at the Voss 2013 competition, where Thompson finished second.
Other names to watch out for include Heidi Zacher (GER), Georgia Simmerling (CAN), and 40-year-old Ophelie David (FRA), who comes into Sierra Nevada as the most decorated world championships ski cross athlete of all time, with four medals to her name. David may be the oldest competitor in the field, but with a fifth-place overall World Cup finish this season and no finishes lower than 11th, she can very much still ski alongside the best in the world.
Chapuis SN2017 favourite, but men’s field especially tight
On the men’s side, three-time crystal globe winner, Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medallist, and Voss 2013 world champion Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) comes into competition in Sierra Nevada as the favourite, but also as something of a question mark, having missed the final event of the season to rest some nagging injuries.
Chapuis finished the season with four victories and six podiums and locked up his third-straight World Cup title before the season finale at Blue Mountain, becoming the first man to ever win three consecutive crystal globes. However, his performance tailed off slightly over the last few competitions of the season, possibly due to the above-mentioned health issues.
As Chapuis faltered, Canada’s Brady Leman picked up the slack, taking two victories in the final three events of the season to go along with six runner-up results earned before that. Though he would finish the campaign in second overall, 42 points back of Chapuis, he comes into Sierra Nevada as the hottest athlete on tour.
However, the men’s ski cross field is one of the deepest and most competitive of any in Freestyle. Behind Leman are the likes of Alex Fiva (SUI), the 2012/13 crystal globe winner who us coming off his best season since that title performance, and Filip Flisar (SLO), the reigning world champion with a penchant for clutch performances who has also just wrapped up his best World Cup since his crystal globe in 2011/12.
Then there’s skiers like Chris Delbosco (CAN) and Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), two athletes who have had difficult seasons for different reasons, but who both have big-time victories in the not-so-distant past (Deer Valley 2011 world championship gold for Delbosco, the 2013/14 ski cross crystal globe for Oehling Norberg) and the ability to perform their best in high-pressure situations.
Really, on race day it’s a full reset. Any number of athletes could have the competition of their lives and come out on top. And that is exactly why the Sierra Nevada 2017 ski cross world championship is a must-watch this weekend.
Ski cross competition in Sierra Nevada gets underway at 11:10 with men’s qualifications, followed by the ladies at 12:25. Final heats - beginning with the men’s 1/8 finals - hit the track at 14:00.
(All times CET and subject to change)
Sierra Nevada 2017 data page (programs & results)
Photos (Photos: Buchholz/FIS Freestyle)