Thompson and Leman close out season with Blue Mtn wins
Blue Mountain, CAN - The 2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season came to a close in spectacular fashion on Sunday afternoon, with Canada’s Marielle Thompson and Brady Leman capping off a ski cross celebration for the host squad with victories at the World Cup finals in Blue Mountain (CAN)
Sunday was the first ski cross World Cup competition at Blue Mountain in five years, but in an interesting case of history repeating itself the final result was a carbon copy for the Canadians, with Thompson and Leman on top and Chris Delbosco coming in second in the men’s competition, just as those three found themselves back in February 2012.
This time around, however, things were made even sweeter, as those three and the rest of the Canadian team found themselves awarded with the ski cross Nations Cup trophy by competition’s end.
Thompson tops off crystal globe-winning 2016/17 with home win
With the 2016/17 ski cross World Cup title and crystal globe all locked up before even dropping in on Sunday - the third crystal globe of her career - the only pressure on Thompson’s shoulders was the expectations of the Canadian fans, and she lived up to those expectations with aplomb.
Lined up against Sandra Naeslund (SWE), Fanny Smith (SUI), and Brittany Phelan (CAN) in the big final, Thompson pulled what was probably her slowest start of the day, falling in behind Naeslund and locking into an early battle with Smith.
However, heading into the icy, diving third corner of the Blue Mountain course, Thompson took a daring high line, setting herself up for a pass on Naeslund around the next corner and grabbing hold of a lead she wouldn’t let go.
Naeslund pushed Thompson right to the very end, but just couldn’t find a chance to make a move on the smooth Canadian. Holding her lead over the final jump and across the line, Thompson took her seventh victory of the season and the 20th of her career at the venue where it all got started for her five years earlier.
“It feels really good to win on home soil, with a repeat of last time we were here,” Thompson said from the finish area, globe in hand, “To take the win and get the globe here in front of my friends and family is indescribable.
“I did not crush the start in the big final and I got stuck behind Sandra,” Thompson went on when asked to describe her race, “But I knew on this course I just had to be patient and wait it out for the right moment. My coach said that I was a little gutsy in my choice of timing for that pass, but it was all just in the heat of the moment. Sandra’s an awesome competitor, so to be able to pass her and take the win is big.”
Naeslund would hold on for second, while Smith would round out the podium in third, as the top three ladies of the 2016/17 season finished the competition in Blue Mountain in just the way they would finish up on the final Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup rankings.
For Phelan, the 2016/17 ladies Rookie of the Year, the fourth place result on the day was the best of her career and the highlight of a strong season that saw her make finals in every competition, earning six top-8 results.
Leman and Delbosco make magic happen with 1-2 result
The men’s competition featured one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen by any competitor all season by Leman, as the 30-year-old lead from top to bottom in every one of his heats for an impressive victory.
And it wasn’t a lightweight big final he found himself in at the end, either, with Delbosco, reigning world champion Filip Flisar (SLO), and Terence Tchiknavorian joining him in the gates. All three of those athletes came into the final on the strength of some fine skiing of their own through the lead-up heats, with none more impressive than Delbosco and his fourth-to-first-place pass in the semi-finals.
However, no one would be able to touch Leman in the big final. Pulling the fastest start, he made his way smoothly and easily through the tricky top section of the course before putting down the pedal and pulling away through the snaky middle section.
Delbosco fell in behind Leman to fend off several attacks from Flisar, while Tchiknavorian was largely shut out of any opportunity to make his way into podium position, and the finish line would see the Canadians in first and second, with Flisar in third and Tchiknavorian denied a podium for France.
“It was a perfect race,” said Leman from the finish, “It doesn’t happen very often that you can lead top to bottom for four runs in a row. Everyone’s so good these days that usually you’ve gotta make some passes at some point. But I was able to keep finding a little extra speed at the top and a little extra motivation from the home crowd.
“It’s an amazing day for our team,” Leman went on, “Del and I going one-two for the men, Marielle and Britt bit taking first and fourth for the ladies... We just showed that our team is deep and everyone’s still rolling strong at the end of the year. Taking home the Nations Cup is something that means a lot to our team. We work a lot on team values and team culture even though ski cross is an individual sport. It’s great for us to reach this goal.”
With the win, Leman was able to lock down second overall on the 2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup leaderboard, finishing with 721 points - 42 back of the 763 held by crystal globe winner Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA), and 82 points ahead of third overall Alex Fiva (SUI) and his 639.
Chapuis wasn’t on hand to claim his crystal globe in Blue Mountain, electing to rest at home ahead of the upcoming Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships. However, it should not be lost in the mix this was the third consecutive World Cup title for the 28-year-old - making him the first man to accomplish the feat in ski cross World Cup history.
The men’s Rookie of the Year honours went to Italy’s Siegmar Klotz, the former Alpine standout who made the move to ski cross at the start of this season at immediately settled in to his new discipline, making it through to finals in nine of 14 events and recording three top-10 results.
GEPA Photos (for editorial use, with credit)