Zangerl, Thompson triumphant in Nakiska
Veteran Thomas Zangerl (AUT) and reigning crystal globe winner and Olympic champion Marielle Thompson (CAN) claimed victories at the season-opening Audi ski cross World Cup in Nakiska, Canada, on Saturday.
Overcast skies and moderate temperatures greeted the athletes on Saturday morning, a welcome respite after last year's event saw the first of back-to-back races cancelled due to temperatures that dipped into the -30c range. With an expertly prepared course and an enthusiastic Canadian crowd on hand, the 2014 edition of the Nakiska event was easily the best to date.
Thompson seemed to carry her momentum from placing first in Friday's qualification round into Saturday's finals, as she easily ran away from the field in the first heat. In the second heat, however, she was edged at the line by young Sandra Naeslund (SWE), and that result seemed to suggest she might see some stiffer competition come finals.
Lined up alongside Naeslund, teammate and second place qualifier Georgia Simmerling (CAN), and top rival and third place qualifier Fanny Smith (SUI), Thompson was in about as tough as she could be in the big final. While her finals start wasn't her strongest, she was still able to fight her way to the front, shadowed closely by Smith.
Smith kept pace with Thompson throughout the middle of the course before running up on Thompson's skis while searching for a pass, opening the door for Simmerling to slide in second. With Naeslund off course in the rear, the two Canadians were able to hold on through the final rollers section, with Thompson and Simmerling taking first and second and Smith claiming third, just as they had finished in the previous day's qualifiers.
Full ladies' results can be found HERE
In the men's event, Zangerl capped off a strong weekend for the Austrians. The recently crowned Austrian national champion, Zangerl looked extremely confident in Saturday's race, handily winning all three of his heats en route to the finals.
And, as he had done all day, the 31-year-old got out to a strong start in the big final, powering through the technical start section to take a lead by the race's first corner that he would not relinquish.
Not that he wasn't challenged, though. Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), Armin Niederer, and Jonas Devoussoux lined up tightly behind Zangerl in second, third, and fourth, and no skier was ever more than a couple of meters behind the man ahead of him throughout the race. While the evenly-matched athletes sought desperately for an opportunity to overtake, there would be no passing in the final. Zangerl would take the second win of his career with Oehling Norberg in second and Niederer third.
Niederer's podium was his third in Nakiska in as many races, as he now has a win, a second, and a third place finish at the Canadian venue.
David Duncan (CAN) was the top Canadian on the day, taking fourth place with a well-executed win in the small final.
Full men's results can be found HERE
Marielle Thompson - "To finish first and second (with Simmerling) for Canada at home is fabulous. It was tight, but I managed to pull it off."
Georgia Simmerling - "Today was all about patience. The risk/reward factor was high. I focused on my game and it paid off."
Thomas Zangerl - “It was my first time without pain in training so I think it’s a good start. This is maybe the result of the training. The start section here is really technical.”
"It’s awesome to ski here. I think when I’m older I’m coming here to Canada. When I retire, I’m coming here.”
Dave Duncan - “I skied my heart out to try and make it happen, to give the fans another podium here. Taking the small final today, I’ll take it. I got four good racing heats in today. That’ll set me up well for the next race, just getting that exposure, getting that experience again racing.”
With the postponement of next week's scheduled race in Val Thorens (FRA), next up on the Audi ski cross World Cup schedule is a pair of races in Innichen (ITA), on December 20th and 21st.