It's tight at the top as Audi ski cross World Cup hits Are, SWE
ARE, SWE – The Audi ski cross World Cup tour has moved to Are, Sweden, for back-to-back races this Saturday and Sunday at the famed Scandinavian venue.
With only three events left to go in the season, the race for the crystal globe looks like it will come right down to the wire in both the men's and ladies' categories, with most of the top athletes on both sides separated by just a handful of points.
The ladies' side is slightly more clear-cut than the men's with Sochi 2014 gold medallist Marielle Thompson on top of the standings by a relatively large 75 points. However, what had been a greater than 100 point cushion was cut into last weekend in Arosa, Switzerland, when Thompson failed to make it into a big final that saw Fanny Smith (SUI) take second and Ophelie David (FRA) take third behind winner Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (NOR).
Smith now sits in second position on the leader board and David in fourth, with third-ranked skier Katrin Mueller (SUI) out for the rest of 2013/14 after electing to have surgery on a damaged knee that she had been dealing with in impressive fashion throughout the season.
The gap from Thompson to David is only 123 points, and while Thompson's consistency (she has placed in the top five in 12 consecutive events, including Sochi 2014) suggests it would take a combination of fortuitous events for Smith or David to catch her, such a thing is not entirely out of the question.
The top hometown hopeful on the ladies' side will be Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Anna Holmlund (SWE). Though she missed the first part of the 2013/14 season recovering from knee surgery, Holmlund has skied strongly at several races since returning, and is coming off a fourth-place finish in Arosa.
On the men's side, things at the top are even tighter than with the ladies. Top-ranked Dave Duncan (CAN) currently sits just nine points up on Andreas Matt (AUT), while from Duncan down to sixth-ranked skier Daniel Bohnacker (GER) there is less than a 100 point gap.
Despite a disappointing 31st place finish at Sochi 2014, the hottest skier on the men's side right now is Alex Fiva (SUI) who, with back-to-back World Cup wins first in Kreischberg, AUT, and then on home soil in Arosa last weekend, has moved himself back into a position to defend his 2012/13 crystal globe win.
However, just ahead of Fiva in the rankings is hometown favourite Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE). The big Swede will be looking to bounce back from a couple of tough results in Kreischberg and Arosa to put on a good show for the local crowd while trying to reclaim the spot at the top of the leader board that he held earlier in the season.
Snow has been a bit scarce in Are this winter, but builders and organizers have done a commendable job constructing a course in a very quick turnaround, as ladies' alpine World Cup events were held at the resort just last weekend. Training for this weekend's events gets underway on Thursday, followed by qualification on Friday, racing on Saturday, and then a full day of qualification and racing on Sunday.
Ladies' Audi ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE
Men's Audi ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE
Are, SWE, World Cup race program (subject to change) can be viewed HERE
Highlights from last weekend's event in Arosa, SUI, can be seen HERE
Audi ski cross World Cup photos for editorial use can be accessed HERE