FIS discipline highlights
With two competition weekends left until athletes travel to Sochi for the Olympic Winter Games, the FIS calendar was in full swing with several high-profile events giving skiers and snowboarders one of their last chances to book their ticket to Sochi.
Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) thrilled the home crowd with her victory in the 10 km classic in Szklarska Poreba. The Russian duo of Maxim Vylegzhanin and Evgeniy Belov topped the standings of the 15 km classic mass start competition, giving the host Olympic nation high medal hopes on the eve of the Sochi Games. On the sprint side, Kikkan Randall (USA) continued to show she is a force to be reckoned with as she won the ladies free technique sprint in her second straight World Cup triumph and her 10th career victory. Canadian Alex Harvey won the same event on the men’s side.
It was a testament to the Organisers in Zakapone (POL) that this weekend’s Ski Jumping competitions were completed. In the end, Anders Bardal (NOR) conquered the rain, wind and long breaks to take the victory 127 points ahead of Slovenia’s Peter Prevc.
On the other side of the world, the ladies also battled tough conditions in Zao (JPN). With four competitions left until the ladies make their Olympic debut, Sara Takanashi (JPN) continues to dominate the field. The Japanese star picked up her 9th World Cup victory of the season in front of the ecstatic home crowd. Carina Vogt (GER) and Bigna Windmueller (SUI) rounded out the podium. Also back in the mix is American Sarah Hendrickson, who returned to training this week. It is still not certain that she will be ready for Sochi, but if she is competing, she could be a threat to Takanashi’s dominance.
All eyes were on Wengen and the famed Lauberhorn course over the weekend. In a fairy tale ending for host Switzerland up-and-comer Patrick Kueng topped the downhill field on the shortened course and gave the 40,000+ fans reason to celebrate. American Ted Ligety won the super combined the day before the downhill. The weekend ended with a dramatic race for France’s Alexis Pinturault, who was faced with a must-finish scenario to qualify for Sochi. Not only did the young star finish, but he topped the competition to earn the much-needed slalom points.
For the ladies it was a weekend of waiting, and in this case in vain, as the races in Cortina d'Ampezzo (ITA) had to be cancelled due to heavy snowfall. It means a full week of racing ahead for the ladies’ tour.
The FIS World Cup crystal globes in aerials were both claimed by China’s high flyers. Last weekend, Li Nina (CHN) completed a remarkable comeback from a knee injury by winning Saturday's competition in Lake Placid en route to take the title of top ladies' aerialist. Liu Zhongqing’s (CHN) second place finish in the competition was enough for him to secure victory on the men’s side.
A pair of North Americans won the ski cross events in Val Thorens (FRA) with Marielle Thompson (CAN) and John Teller (USA) winning the last Olympic qualification event. Meanwhile the first slopestyle events of the season in Europe saw Lisa Zimmermann (GER) top the ladies’ field in Gstaad (SUI) and New Zealand’s Jossi Wells hold off a late surge for the men’s win.
It was a weekend of career firsts in the Snowboard World Cup. Ester Ledecka (CZE) and Lukas Mathies (AUT) secured their first victories in the parallel giant slalom, which was staged in Rogla (SLO). On the other side of the Atlantic, Christy Prior (NZL) and Maxence Parrot (CAN) clinched their first slopestyle competition, which was held in Stoneham (CAN).