Sunny Valley next up for Audi FIS SX World Cup
Sunny Valley, RUS - The Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup roars into the homestretch this weekend with a one-and-done competition at the second new venue of the the 2016/17 ski cross season, with qualifications set to take place on Friday and racing on Saturday in Sunny Valley (RUS).
This will be the first ski cross World Cup competition to be held in Russia since the test event for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and just the second-ever in Russia. However, while Sunny Valley is a first-time host of World Cup ski cross competition, a successful snowboard cross World Cup held at the resort last season and the involvement of several key players from the Sochi events suggest this weekend’s competition should be excellent.
After two hugely-entertaining competitions in Idre Fjall (SWE) two weeks ago, the ladies and men of the ski cross World Cup were given a break last weekend, and should be hungry to get back to competition here in Sunny Valley.
Coming into this weekend’s event it’s Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) who maintain grips atop the World Cup standings, with Thompson’s 765 points putting her 135 clear of second-overall Sandra Naeslund's (SWE) 630 on the ladies’ side , and Chapuis, with 759 points, sitting 143 points above Brady Leman's (CAN) 616 in the men’s title race. With strong performances in Sunny Valley, both Thompson and Chapuis could secure their respective ski cross World Cup titles.
Aside from the crystal globes, both Thompson and Chapuis are chasing some other noteworthy milestones with just two competitions left in the season.
For Thompson, her next win will give her 19 in her career and tie her with Anna Holmlund (SWE) for second all-time on the ladies’ side while putting her seven victories back of the Ophelie David (FRA) for the current record. While Davide is still very much an active part of the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup, sitting fifth overall on the ladies’ leaderboard this season, Thompson is still just 24 years old, and will soon have the all-time record very much in her sights.
Thompson comes into Sunny Valley on a roll having taken one of the wins in Idre Fjall, while the other win in Idre went to Naeslund, who also scored a runner-up in to Thompson in race two.
Though it’s all but assured that Thompson is on her way to the third crystal globe of her career, Naeslund will be looking for a strong result in Sunny Valley to maintain her second-overall ranking, as just 35 points separate her from fourth-overall skier Heidi Zacher (GER). Fanny Smith (SUI), currently in third overall, sits in an even more precarious position than Naeslund, just 8 points up on Zacher with two events to go.
Over on the men’s side, Chapuis is even closer than Thompson in his pursuit of greatness, as he sits just one victory behind “Mr. Ski Cross” Tomas Kraus (CZE) for the all-time men’s benchmark. Should Chapuis manage a victory this Saturday he will not only tie Kraus, but he will ensure himself his third-straight ski cross World Cup title - a feat that no other man has accomplished.
However, Chapuis comes into Sunny Valley after something of a tough weekend in Idre Fjall (at least, by his high standards) finishing fourth in the first race after making it through to the big final as a result of some lucky breaks, and then coming in sixth in the second of the back-to-back competitions. With the twisting Sunny Valley course playing more to his strengths than did the straightaways of Idre Fjall, Chapuis should be back in top form again on Saturday.
Others to watch on the men’s side include Leman and Alex Fiva (SUI), currently sitting second and third on the ski cross leaderboard, respectively. While it is a long shot that either should be able to make up all the ground needed to catch Chapuis, both athletes come into Sunny Valley hot off wins in Idre Fjall, and at the very least they will be looking to lock up their places on the 2016/17 ski cross overall podium.
Worth mentioning also is the rise of young Russian skier Igor Omelin, who took a third and an eight-place result in Idre Fjall, giving the 21-year-old his first career podium and giving the Russian team their first podium of the 2016/17 season just before their home competition.
Friday’s qualifications in Sunny Valley get underway at 11:00 local time, while Saturday’s finals will be pulling out of the start gate beginning at 13:00 (all times CET +4).