Thompson and Oehling Norberg claim ski cross globes
LA PLAGNE, FRA – The final event of the 2013/14 FIS Freestyle World Cup tour took place on Sunday at the Audi ski cross World Cup final in La Plagne (FRA).
After a heavy snowstorm moved in on Saturday, it seemed as if the 2013/14 World Cup finals might go the same way as 2012/13 when weather forced the race's cancellation in Sierra Nevada (SPA). However, a Herculean, all-night effort by crews and organizers cleared the snow from the track and had the course race-ready with only minor delays.
The competition was fierce throughout, with lots of action on the rollicking La Plagne course. One of the earliest signs of difficulty came when World Cup leader Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), lost his ski while way out in front of his quarter final heat in a seemingly innocuous bank turn. At the time, it seemed that Oehling Norberg's crystal globe hopes were shot, with Andreas Matt (AUT) sitting only 10 points back in the standings and still in the race.
However, in his quarter final heat – needing only to advance – Matt went for a big pass and ended up in the soft snow out wide. As he fell to fourth place in the heat, suddenly it became clear that Oehling Norberg would indeed hold on for the season title. Daniel Bohnacker, ninth place on the day, was just able to stake claim to third in the World Cup rankings.
"I was leading by 20 meters and then just lost my ski," said Oehling Norberg, recounting the sequence of events, "After I fell I came down and I was sitting by myself and actually got tears in my eyes because I was so disappointed - I was skiing really good and then my ski just came off. And then 10 minutes later I started cry because I was so happy when Matt didn't get through. It was a crazy day, but I'm really happy it worked out the way it did."
Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games gold medalist Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) went on to win the race in front of a thrilled French crowd. Chapuis had his nose bloodied in the semi-finals, but simply got cleaned up and headed back up the hill for the big final, winning in impressive fashion.
"I knew it was just a bloody nose," said Chapuis about the crash in his semi-final heat, "So I just got down, made it normal, and went back up and I was able to get ready for the final.
"This season was a little bit complicated. I had good races, but then after I would be tired and it would lead to bad results. But I'm happy with this season end."
Christoph Wahrstoetter (AUT) came on strong in the second half of the season and raced superbly all day, and he was rewarded with second place and his first World Cup podium. Brady Leman (CAN) also pushed hard throughout his heats but simply wasn't able to match the starts of his competitors, finishing in third. Andreas Schauer (GER) took fourth.
The ladies' big final was one of the most thrilling heats of ski cross witnessed in recent memory, with Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Fanny Smith (SUI) lined up side-by-side for a single run that would decide the 2013/14 ladies' crystal globe winner.
Out of the gate it looked like Thompson might have the edge, though she appeared to lose her rhythm over one of the early features and get passed by Smith after going shoulder to should into the first turn. However, Thompson slowly reeled Smith in, with the two 21-year-olds seeming to ski on the same pair of boards through the middle section of the course. Then, generating speed through one of the final turns, Thompson slipped past Smith, pulling away all the way to the line and putting an exclamation point on an incredible season.
"When I was in the start I knew I needed to be fast and get out front," Thompson said, going back through her race, "Then when I wasn't in front, I knew I just needed to be patient, and I was. I just waited for my opening. When I saw Fanny was entering that turn a little low I knew I could arc it and accelerate past. I managed to do it and I'm stoked on that. To finish off the season with this win and the crystal globe is pretty cool.
"When I put in all the hard work this summer, the Olympics were my first goal, and all my consistency kind of came with the hard work I put in for that. After the Olympics, the only thing on my mind was the globe."
Georgia Simmerling (CAN) took third place on the day and claim her second straight podium. 17 year old Sandra Naeslund (SWE) capped a standout year with a fourth place finish.
With Thompson taking the globe and Smith the silver, Ophelie David (FRA) was awarded the World Cup bronze medal for the season. David was disappointed with her day, finishing in sixth, but another strong season showed the 37-year-old still has some fuel in the tank.
Full ladies' results can be found HERE
Ladies' 2013/14 Audi ski cross World Cup standings can be found HERE
Full men's results can be found HERE
Men's 2013/14 Audi ski cross World Cup standings can be found HERE